Indian and European Honey Bee
Honeybees belong to the order Hymenoptera and to one of the Apis species. Honeybees are social insects noted for providing their nests with large amounts of honey. A colony of honeybees is a highly complex cluster of individuals that functions virtually as a single organism. It usually consists of the queen bee, a fertilized female capable of laying a thousand or more eggs per day; from a few to 60,000 sexually undeveloped females, the worker bees; and from none to 1,000 male bees, or drones. The female of most species of bees is equipped with a venomous sting.
Apis cerana indica
In India three species of Apis are commonly found, viz., Apis dorsata, Apis florea, and Apis indica. Apis indica (Indian bee) is the common honey bee found in plains and forests throughout India. This is slightly longer than Apis florea and smaller than Apis dorsata. It builds several parallel combs about one foot across in protected places like hollow of trees, thick bushes, within caves of rocks, wells, on walls and other places of safety in buildings. They are the domesticated species, which construct multiple parallel combs with an average honey yield of 6-8 kg per colony per year. These bees are larger than Apis florea but smaller than Apis mellifera. They are more prone to swarming and absconding. This is the only Indian honey bee which is capable of domestication in artificial hives although it does not yield much honey, not more than 4-5 kg annually. Various forms are met within the hills and plains.
With the exception of A. mellifera, all other Apis species are confined to parts of southern or southeastern Asia. Apis mellifera, the European (or western) honey bee, is native to western Asia, Europe and Africa, but can now be found all around the world. The size of A. mellifera varies between 10-20mm and depends on their role (worker bees are 10-15mm long, queens 18-20mm and drones 15-17mm). European honeybees prefer habitats that have an abundant supply of suitable flowering plants, such as meadows, open wooded areas, and gardens. They can survive in grasslands, deserts, and wetlands if there is sufficient water, food, and shelter. They are also similar in habits to Indian bees, which build parallel combs. They are bigger than all other honeybees except Apis dorsata. The average production per colony is 25-30 kg. They have been imported from European countries (Italy). They are less prone to swarming and absconding.
- Apis cerana prefers to nest in enclosed cavities, like a hollow tree. Apis cerana colonies are typically smaller than Apis mellifera colonies and tend to prefer smaller nest cavities
- Apis cerana colonies tend to swarm (reproduction where the original single colony reproduces to two and sometimes more colonies ) and abscond (abandon a hive location) more frequently
- The abdominal stripes (tomenta) of Apis cerana are more pronounced than those of Apis mellifera, and Apis cerana workers have four abdominal stripes, whereas Apis mellifera workers have three abdominal stripes
- Both Apis cerana and Apis mellifera build multiple combs arranged parallel to one another. However, Apis cerana does not use propolis, a glue-like material, to seal cracks and holes in their hives, as does Apis mellifera.
- Apis mellifera can survive only under intense care and protection offered by the beekeeper, while the vast majority of Apis cerana colonies still live wild and naturally in balance with a vast array of predators, pest, and parasites
- Foraging range of Apis cerana is max. 1500 m to 2000 m and that of Apis mellifera is average 1650 m and maximum 6 km.
- The average foraging time and temperature of Apis cerana is 9 am and 11.30 am/15.5-21°C and of Apis mellifera is 11 am and 1 pm/21-25°C
Many beekeepers are transitioning to Apis mellifera management because the average Apis cerana colony produces less honey than does the average Apis mellifera colony.