Where Did Honey Bees Come From?

Last Updated: 22.10.19

 

The world of bees is fascinating as these insects are not only extremely hard-working but also intelligent. So, if you want to open a business in the industry and make the most of your honey bee hive kits, you also need to know more about the bees’ origins, hive formation, and the journey of honey.

Here are some interesting facts about the history of honey bees, including their origins, and their beneficial role in the ecosystem.

 

What are honey bees?

Honey bees are mainly described as flying insects that are part of the Apis genus. They are renowned architects and build colonial nests made of wax that can host more than 10,000 bees at once. Out of all the bee variety, they are the only ones capable of producing honey, the golden sweet nectar that is often targeted by many other insects and animals, including wasps, bears, and humans.

Nowadays, we can only find seven species of honey bees scattered almost all around the world, though historical evidence points out to at least eleven different species. However, honey bees only represent about 7% of the total 20,000 different bee species known so far.

And, although there are other types of bees related to the honey ones that can produce and store their own golden and sweet nectar, only the ones from the Apis genus are “the real deal”.

Where do honey bees come from?

Unlike former studies that claimed honey bees originated from Africa, new studies conducted by various top universities have discovered that, in fact, most of the bee species, including the honey bees, come from Southeast Asia.

Although the first bees appear in fossil records in Europe, this doesn’t automatically mean that the insects originated from that part of the world but mainly that they were present on the old continent at that time.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support Asia as being the place where bees originate from but, by studying various genes from these insects, it has been concluded that an African origin is unlikely.

Another interesting fact about honey bees is that there isn’t any record of the species living in the New World during human times until it was introduced by Europeans traveling there.

Only one bee fossil has been documented from America, and it belongs to a specimen that most likely lived on the current territory of Nevada, almost 14 million years ago. That being said, the true origins of the Apis species remain unknown.

What we do know is that, even though considered sensitive creatures, bees easily adapted to the climate conditions of various environments, thus they are now spread on most of the world’s territories.

 

Honey bee distribution inside the hive

As we previously mentioned, each of the honey bees in a colony has a specific purpose within its family. Most often, a bee colony only contains one queen bee, which is the single fertile female of the group. Apart from that, there are up to two thousand drones or fertile males, while the rest of the hive is made of thousands of sterile worker bees.

Eggs are laid inside a certain cell of a wax honeycomb. The queen chooses which eggs to fertilize. Drones usually develop from unfertilized eggs and their sole purpose is to mate with the queen bee. On the other hand, the future queen bee of the hive and the rest of the female working bees are developed from fertilized eggs.

Initially, all larvae are fed with royal jelly produced by the queen bee, fastly switching to pollen and honey harvested by working bees after a few days. The exception is one larva that continues to be fed solely with royal jelly, that will later turn into a queen bee and take the place of the current one.

Why are honey bees important to the environment?

The main benefit of worker bees is that they pollinate trees and flowers, helping create a diverse ecosystem and supporting the spread of various species of plants. Although there are other insects that can pollinate, including wasps, only honey bees can turn the pollen and the nectar from the flowers and trees into the delicious and nutritious golden food named honey.

The curative properties of honey have been known for several centuries now, and millions of people worldwide benefit from them in one form or another. Used as a raw ingredient, it can be dissolved in water, coffee or tea and works as a sweetener that is more natural than processed sugar.

Honey has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties, which makes it a base ingredient in the cosmetic and beauty industry. Alternatively, beeswax can be used in the cosmetic industry thanks to its hydrating properties, as well as in the manufacturing industry of candles.

 

Endangered species

Unfortunately, various bee diseases and external factors led to the diminishing of the honey bee colonies throughout the world. Pollution, climate change, and the constant involvement of humans in the natural habitats of plants, birds, and animals represent the main causes of the disappearance of honey bees.

We cannot stress enough the importance of these insects in our world but, without a common strategy that will work on the negative impact of these factors, bee colonies will continue to disappear.

There are various small steps everyone can take to ensure a healthy and safe environment for honey bees to work and thrive, and this includes lowering one’s carbon footprint by choosing alternative energy solutions and green technologies that will pollute less.

Plastic waste represents a worldwide concern and it seems that it has gotten out of hand in the past years. There are thousands of plant and animal species that directly suffer from the high amount of plastic that now exists in oceans, seas, and on land.

 

 

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