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SPECIES WHOSE NESTS HAVE PARALLEL COMBS
The most widespread species of honey bee. Also the most widely studied. Many beekeeping texts relate only to Apis mellifera (although this is not always stated).
This species of honey bee is native to Africa, most of Europe and the Middle East. It has been introduced by man to the Americas, Australasia and much of the rest of the world.
Apis mellifera usually builds its nest inside an enclosed space. The nest consists of a series of parallel combs, and this nesting pattern is followed in the design of frame hives.
There are many different races of Apis mellifera, some tropical, others temperate The Africanized honey bees in South and Central America are descended from tropical African Apis mellifera. Different races of Apis mellifera have different sizes of individual bees and colonies. Generally Apis mellifera are regarded as the medium-sized honey bees, against which other species are judged as "large" or "small".
Other names the hive bee, the European bee, the Western hive bee. Sometimes incorrectly named Apis mellifica.
Native to Asia between Afghanistan and Japan, and from Russia and China in the north to southern Indonesia. Recently introduced to Papua New Guinea.
Apis cerana builds a nest consisting of a series of parallel combs, similar to Apis mellifera, and builds its nest within a cavity.
There are many different races of Apis cerana, as could be expected from the wide range of habitats it occupies.
Bees of some of the races are the same size as some Apis mellifera However Apis cerana varies in size throughout its range, and tropical races are much smaller, with smaller colonies.
Other names: the Asian hive bee. Sometimes incorrectly named Apis indica.
Identified only in Sabah, Malaysia.
The individual bees are slightly larger than Apis cerana found in the same locality, but otherwise the colonies are similar in size and construction.
Known as red bees due to a reddish hue when clustering (see (Bees for Development Journal) Newsletter 12, 1988)
Other names: the red bee (this species was named for a short period Apis vechti).
SPECIES WHOSE NESTS ARE SINGLE COMBS
Native from Oman spreading south-east through Asia as far as some of the islands of Indonesia. In recent years introduced by man to Sudan (see (Bees for Development Journal) Newsletter 8, 1986) and lately reported in Iraq (see BfD Journal 24, 1992)
Apis florea builds a single-comb nest, usually fairly low down in bushes, or in the open, suspended from a branch or rock surface
Apis florea are very small bees, and their nest is small too, often no larger than a man's hand. A colony might contain 20,000 bees.
Other names: the little honey bee, sometimes (wrongly) the dwarf honey bee
This species is quite similar to Apis florea: small sized bees which nest on single combs. It has been identified in Thailand, Malaysia and the southern Chinese peninsula.
Apis dorsata and Apis laboriosa are large honey bees. Their nests consist of large, single combs.
On the western edge of its distribution Apis dorsata is found only as far as Afghanistan but its south-east occurrence extends a long way east of Bali. Its northern distribution is limited by the Himalayas.
Apis dorsata bees are large. Their nests consist of single combs suspended from a branch, cliff face or building. These combs can be very big, up to two metres wide and one metre from top to bottom.
There is morphometric evidence for different subspecies of Apis dorsata .which may eventually be proven to be separate species.
Other names: the rock bee, the giant honey bee.
Not all scientists agree that Apis laboriosa is a species different from Apis dorsata.
Certainly Apis lavoriosa are the largest of the honey bees. They are found in the Himalayas at higher altitudes than Apis dorsata. Apis laboriosa nests are similar to those of Apis dorsata, but Apis laboriosa colonies are usually found together in clusters, with sometimes over 100 combs suspended from a cliff face very near to one another.
[Bees for Development Journal #25]