Honeybees

There are thousands of species of bees known throughout the world. But when most people think of a bee, they think of a honeybee. Honeybees, Apis mellifera, are just one kind of bee. They are in the family Apidae. They live socially in large colonies and are commonly kept in domestic beehives, or are found in the wild inside hollow tree trunks.

Honeybees visit flowers to feed on nectar and pollen, and to collect these foods to take back to the hive. Honeybees make use of nectar to produce honey. It takes four worker honeybees their entire lives to produce just one teaspoonful of honey. From honeybees come other useful products including beeswax, propolis, royal jelly, and bee venom.

There is a long history between honeybees and humans. African rock art that depicts people harvesting wild honey date to thousands of years ago. Indeed, honeybees originated in East Africa, and like humans, migrated out of Africa to the rest of the world.

There are more wild varieties of honeybees in Africa than anywhere else in the world. In Kenya, there are two different kinds of honeybees:

Common Honeybee
This more familiar orange-and-black coloured bee is typically seen in grassland, bush, coastal, and forest areas.

Mountain Honeybee
This is a dark, chocolate coloured honeybee that is adapted to the high altitude areas of Mount Kenya, the Aberdare range, and Mount Elgon. Honeybees pollinate many crops, herbs, wildflowers, and trees.


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