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HYMENOPTERA, Apidae (Apoidea) --  <Images> & <Juveniles>



Description & Statistics


          Apidae includes the honeybee and some of the socialized bees, but the genus Psithyrus parasitizes the bumblebees (Clausen 1940/62).  This family includes long-tongued bees without pygidial or basitibial plates (Finnamore & Michener 1993).  There is no scopa in queens of social species and in the parasitic and robber genera,


          The honeybees always produce a wax comb with hexagonal cells. The cells serve for larval rearing sites and honey storage.  Honey is formed in the stomach from nectar through the action of enzymes.  It is regurgitated into the storage cells.


          The developing brood is fed with pollen.  The queen is responsible for the production of eggs.  She produces a "queen substance" that suppresses the development of other females in the colony.


          A marked division of labor occurs in the colony.  The drones exist solely for the purpose of mating with the queen.  There is a continuous cycle in a colony, and a division takes place when a second queen is produced.  The old queen then leads a part of the old colony away to a new site in a swarm.  Three principal stimuli to the production of new queens are, (1) when an overabundance of individuals occurs in the hive, (2) an old queen dies and (3) when there is a shortage of food.  The latter case stimulates swarming to form new colonies.


          Apiculture regularly includes artificial insemination.  The genetic configureation of a queen is 2X, a worker 2X and a drone 1X.  Drones are produced from unfertilized eggs.


          Honeybees are of great economic importance in that they are widely deployed for the pollination of both orchard and field crops (Please see ).  Bee venom has been used in therapy and royal jelly has been touted for rather doubtful rejuvenation properties.


          The family includes about. 1,000 species including all the highly social bees as well as some solitary and primitively social forms.  There were 47 species known in North America as of 2000.  Principal subfamilies are:  Euglossinae, Bombinae, Meliponinae and Apinae. 


          One species, A. mellifera L., has been transported worldwide for pollination and honey production.  The earlier range was from northern Europe to southern Africa.  The other species are found in southern and eastern Asia.  Colonies are perennial and they swarm.  The old queen departs the nest with many workers.  Queens and workers differ in appearance.  Colonies generally have thousands of bees and in the wild occur in hollow trees, rock or soil cavities.  In southern Asia they have been found on exposed combs of cells hanging from tree branches or ledges (Finnamore & Michener 1993).


          This is a large family of bees, comprising the common honey bees, stingless bees (which are also cultured for honey), carpenter bees, orchid bees, cuckoo bees, bumblebees, and various other less well-known groups. The family Apidae presently includes all the genera that were previously classified in the families Anthophoridae and Ctenoplectridae, and most of these are solitary species, though a few are also cleptoparasites. The four groups that were subfamilies in the old family Apidae are presently ranked as tribes within the subfamily Apinae. This trend has been taken to its extreme in a few recent classifications that place all the existing bee families together under the name "Apidae" (or, alternatively, the non-Linnaean clade "Anthophila"), but this is not a widely-accepted practice.


          The subfamily Apinae contains a diversity of lineages, the majority of which are solitary, and whose nests are simple burrows in the soil. However, honey bees, stingless bees, and bumblebees are colonial (eusocial), though they are sometimes believed to have each developed this independently, and show notable differences in such things as communication between workers and methods of nest construction. Xylocopines (the subfamily which includes carpenter bees) are mostly solitary, though they tend to be gregarious, and some lineages such as the Allodapini contain eusocial species; most members of this subfamily make nests in plant stems or wood. The nomadines are all cleptoparasites in the nests of other bees.


          Other key references are Maa (1953), Schwarz (1939, 1948) and Michener (1990).



References:   Please refer to  <biology.ref.htm>, [Additional references may be found at:  MELVYL Library]