The Cape Honey Bee is a particular subspecies of the Western honey bee. Due to several specific reasons, this insect is considered the most distinctive subspecies of the honey bee on earth.
This species has evolved a unique reproductive adaptability. Most honey bee colonies will perish if the queen dies. Yet, if such an event occurs in a hive of the Cape Honey Bee, a number of workers will develop ovaries, and begin laying eggs for drones. Also, these bee drones will be sexually viable and will mate with new queens from other hives. One or more of the newly fertilized queens will then return to the hive.
Cape Honey Bee Distribution and Habitat
The bee is actually native to a specific and highly contained ecoregion in the southwestern portion of South Africa. This location is part of what is popular as the Fynbos ecoregion.
This entire endemic range of the Cape Honey Bee is constrained to a single rather narrow strip of land reaching from Port Elizabeth in the east to the extreme southwestern corner of South Africa.
Within this range, the Cape Honey Bee is highly adaptable in its choice of habitat and can live in areas ranging from scrubland to tropical rainforest.
Cape Honey Bee Biology
In appearance, the Cape Honey Bee is virtually identical to the European honey bee. The only distinctive visual difference is in their coloring as the Cape Honey Bee is much darker than its European cousin.
As with other species of honey bee, this one possesses three distinct classes: the queens, the workers, and the drones. The workers are all sexually immature and unable to mate, except in the event of the loss of a queen. As previously mentioned, this is a unique evolutionary adaptation. The drones are the males of the hive.
Both genders possess stingers. However, the function of the stinger differs in the genders. The female may sting repeatedly whereas the male will lose his stinger with its first use.