The “European” honey bee, Apis mellifera Linnaeus is native in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The species has been subdivided into many subspecies or “races”, none of which are native to the Americas. Despite this native status, the European honey bee have been spread by humans beyond their natural range due to agricultural benefits including pollination services, propolis production and honey production.

Apis mellifera Linnaeus

Title: The Lone Pollinator
Photographer: Tanner Smida

In the United States, the introduction of the European honey bee dates back to the American settlers in the 1620s. More recently an African subspecies, Apis mellifera scutellata Lepeletier, was introduced in South America during the late 1950s. This honey bee, accidentally released, was then able to hybridize with the local European honey bee population and has since come to be known as the Africanized Honey Bee. Having saturated Central America by the 1990s they have since successfully spread into North America. Today Africanized honey bees can be found in multiple states within the United States including; California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Florida.

Beekeepers within the United States focus on keeping colonies of honey bees of differing races. The most commonly kept honey bees are Carniolan, Caucasian, Cordovan, Buckfast, and Italian. However there are many more races available, and even more being developed to show resistance toward several honey bee pests and parasites.