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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a!
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Apis Mellifera

To help me study and for whatever interest it may generate in those of you who read this blog, I'm going to share what I am learning between now and the Young Harris Institute in May, 2010. In between I'll keep posting what I am doing this winter as a beekeeper.

Today I read the first chapter in The Biology of the Honey Bee. Often people ask PN Williams from whom many people buy bees in Atlanta if his bees are Russian or Italian. I've heard him say many times that he sells "mutt bees" as do most beekeepers who sell nucs. Carl Webb in North Georgia sells Russians and is a registered breeder of Russian bees, but for the most part the bees here in Georgia are all genetically mixed up.

In Winston's book he discusses the different members of the bee family, Apidae. The honeybee belongs to this family along with the orchid bee, the bumble bees, and the stingless bees. What makes members of this family unique is the presence of the pollen basket on their hind legs.

Remember biology? Family, genus, species? The family is Apidae; the genus is Apis; and the species within the genus include: A. mellifera (the honeybee), A. dorsata and A. laborisoa (the giant honey bees), A. cerana (the Indian honeybee), A. florea (the dwarf honeybee).

Our favorite bee, the A. mellifera, probably originally developed in the African tropical regions. On its own the bee migrated to Asia and to Europe, but was found nowhere else in the world.

But people loved honey and bees, and beekeepers began moving their bees with them to the western hemisphere, Australia and the rest of the world. So now, although they are not native all over the world, honeybees are found all over the world.

The honeybees we beekeepers "keep" build nests of comb inside cavities (like tree trunks - or in hobbyist/commercial apiaries, hive boxes). While there are lots of races of A. Mellifera, these are hard to distinguish because scientists separate bee types in one way and beekeepers tend to focus on other characteristics. Scientists are looking mostly at measurable features such as wing veins, mouthpart and antenna length, body part sizes. Beekeepers look at characteristics like color, behavior, honey production, gentleness.

However mixed up they may be, we keep European races of bees or genetic combos of European races. As the Africanized honeybee encroaches on American beekeeping, bees at least in the southern regions of the country (from New Mexico east to Florida) may include genetic mixes of Apis mellifera scutellata - an African race of bee.

OK, that's all I've learned tonight - now shared with you!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing! I'm a huge fan of biology and despite my great fear of getting stung to the point of panic when a bee enters my personal space, I'm also a huge fan of bees. :) Maybe some day I'll over come that fear and become a beekeeper but for now I'm very content learning about them from you!

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