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Press Release

[Immediate 2/12/13]

The biology of other Apis honey bees 

The western honey bee Apis mellifera is probably the world’s most studied insect, but beekeepers and bees scientists in the west sometimes forget that its close relatives in the genus Apis may be of significant economic importance. Published today in the Journal of Apicultural Research are five new papers which increase our understanding of these neglected species.

One paper studied the degree of inbreeding in the giant honey bee Apis dorsata, which is a major pollinator in the rainforests of Peninsular Malaysia, but unfortunately is threatened by frequent harvesting of its combs by honey hunters. The results, using DNA microsatellite markers showed that the queens of different nests were not closely related, and that the colonies had enough time to produce honey before they were harvested. Another paper studied the gut flora of Apis dorsata in Malaysia to determine whether colonies contained bacteria which might be of potential interest as probiotics.

A study in northern Thailand investigated the bee plants exploited by three honey bee species, the Eastern hive bee Apis cerana, Apis dorsata and the dwarf honey bee A. florea. The authors analysed pollen grains from the bees, and found that the most abundant pollen source was from Mimosa pudica, an interesting touch-sensitive plant often grown as a garden curiosity in the west, but which is considered as an invasive weed in other areas.

Finally, two studies looked at pests and diseases of the Eastern hive bee Apis cerana. One investigated pseudoscorpions, which are small relatives of spiders, which have previously been suggested as a possible biological control for the parasitic mite varroa. Pseudoscorpions were observed in Apis cerana colonies in Nepal, but it was concluded that they seem to prey on dead honey bees and larvae rather than on the mites. The other studied the gut parasite Nosema ceranae, which has already been detected in adults of managed A. cerana, managed non-native Apis mellifera and in wild Apis florea and Apis dorsatapopulations in the north of Thailand. As a comparison, a number of unmanaged (wild and feral) colonies of several species of honey bees in Northeast Thailand were sampled, and it was found that Nosema infection is not widespread, possibly because they possess some degree of resistance to the disease.

IBRA Science Director and JAR Senior Editor Norman Carreck says: “These other honey bees such as the eastern hive beeApis cerana, the giant bees such as Apis dorsata, and the dwarf bees such as Apis florea have interesting behaviours which contrast with the other species, and studies of their biology may lead to improved understanding and management of our ownApis mellifera.

 Press Release


Norman Carreck, Science Director, IBRA +44 (0)791 8670169 Email:



1. The papers mentioned are available at:

2. The International Bee Research Association (“IBRA”) is the world’s longest established apicultural research publishers and promotes the value of bees by providing information on bee science and beekeeping worldwide.

3. IBRA publishes the peer reviewed scientific journal the Journal of Apicultural Research, founded by IBRA in 1962. It includes original research articles, theoretical papers; scientific notes and comments; together with authoritative reviews on scientific aspects of the biology, ecology, natural history, conservation and culture of all types of bee. The ISI Impact Factor (2012) is 1.926 and the ISI 5-year Impact Factor is 1.447:-

4. IBRA publishes Bee World, founded by the Apis Club in 1919. This is now an accessible and topical journal containing the latest bee research, news, reviews and other relevant information for the bee scientist, beekeeper, and anyone with an interest in bees:-

5. IBRA publishes and sells books on bee science, bee conservation and beekeeping and also provides bee information services. IBRA is a Registered Charity, and its Council of Trustees boasts some of the world’s leading bee scientists.

6. Membership of IBRA costs just £33.00 annually. Membership benefits include receipt of four quarterly issues of Bee Worldand discount on all IBRA publications.


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