African Bees - their behaviour and racial distribution(see photo below)


The following are some of the most commonly referred to African races of honeybees (Apis mellifera) which have been identified including aspects of their behaviour. The list is not comprehesive
and is intended only as an introduction to the topic. Much work is yet to be done on the classification and documentation of African bee races.

1. Apis mellifera intermissa

This is a North African race of honeybee found north of the Sahara from Lybia to Morocco. The bee is reputedly very aggressive and swarms frequently. During droughts over 80% of colonies may die but owing to intensive swarming colony numbers increase when conditions improve.

 2. Apis mellifera lamarckii

Egyptian bees found in North East Africa primarily in Egypt and the Sudan along the Nile Valley. Like intermissa they rear numerous queens with one colony recorded as rearing 368 queen cells and producing one small swarm with 30 queens!

3. Apis mellifera scutellata

Bees from the savannahs of central and equatorial East Africa and most of South Africa. This is a small bee with a short tongue which is highly aggressive and swarms frequently and is able to nest in a broad range of sites from cavities to open nests.

4. Apis mellifera adansonii

These bees are found in West Africa and are yellow in colour. They appear to be very similar to cutellata in many of their behaviours.

5. Apis mellifers monticola

These are the mountain bees and are found at high altitude in Tanzania and Kenya – 1,500 – 3,100 meters. These bees are a large, dark and gentle race with longer hairs than other African races of bees.

6. Apis mellifera capensis

These bees are found in South Africa and are unique among Apis mellifera in that they have a common occurance of female-producing laying workers.

Note: This article on African races of bees and their behaviour will be developed over time to include more detailed information on specific African bee races. An understanding of the type of bees we have in Africa and their behaviour is fundamental to good beekeeping. This information will also be of interest to
beekeepers in the Americas working with Africanized bees which are essentially African bees (Apis mellifera scutellata).


Photo above: Races of African bees frequently abscond/migrate leaving many empty beehives – the example show above is from Kenya.


‘The Biology of the Honey Bee’ by Mark L. Winston & ‘Honeybees of Africa’ by Hepburn and Radloff

Both these books are available at the Apiconsult Store

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