Honey Bee (or honeybees) is the common name of a subset of insects, primarily popular for their production and storage of honey. They also construct perennial, colonial nests from wax. Honey bees are the only surviving members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis.
Currently, scientists have acknowledged only seven species of honey bee and have recognized a total of 44 subspecies. The Honey Bee represents only a small fraction of the roughly 20,000 known species of bees. Some other types also produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees.
Honey Bee Origins
The Honey Bee appears to have their center of origin in South and Southeast Asia (including the Philippines). All but one of the existing species are native to that region. Notably, living representatives of the earliest lineages to diverge (Apis florea and Apis andreniformis) have their center of origin there.
The close relatives of modern Honey Bee (bumblebees and stingless bees) are also social to some degree, and social behavior seems a plesiomorphic trait that predates the origin of the genus. Among the living members of Apis, the more primitive species make single, exposed combs.
Honey Bee Domestication
In contrast, the more recently evolved species nest in cavities and have multiple combs. In fact, this behavioral trait has greatly facilitated their domestication.
Humans have historically cultured or at least exploited for honey and beeswax most species indigenous to their native ranges. Interestingly, only two of these species are truly domesticated. The remarkable bee, A. mellifera, has been domesticated at least since the time of the building of the Egyptian pyramids.
Beekeepers in Western countries have been reporting slow declines of stocks for many years – guess why? Read more: What are GMOs, Pesticides and Food Safety, Control the World through Genetically Modified Food
Honey Bee Mass Die-Off
Contributing factors to the decimation of the bees’ numbers include impaired protein production, changes in agricultural practice (i.e. increased use of GMO seeds), or unpredictable weather.
In early 2007, abnormally high die-offs (30–70% of hives) of European Honey Bee colonies occurred in North America. Unfortunately, this horrible decline seems unprecedented in recent history and has a specific name: “colony collapse disorder” (CCD).
It is most likely a novel phenomenon that humans need to urgently address.
The preponderance of evidence is tentatively leaning towards CCD being a syndrome rather than a disease. CCD seems to be caused by a combination of various contributing factors rather than a single pathogen or poison.
Would we starve without bees? You bet.