Study: All the World’s
Honeybees Come From Africa
By Sara Goudarzi
Thursday, October 26, 2006
You can be stung in Rome, Moscow or Phoenix.
But the honeybee is originally from Africa, scientists reported
By looking at variations in genetic markers from
341 bees, researchers found that the common honey bee, Apis mellifera,
originated in African and migraged to Europe at least twice.
“The migrations resulted in two European
populations that are geographically close, but genetically quite
different,” said lead study author Charles Whitfield of
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “In fact,
the two European populations are more related to honeybees in
Africa than to each other.”
The researchers used simple variations in the
bee DNA, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), to figure
out where the bees came from and what their relationships to one
The researchers compared 1,136 markers, many
more than had been available for previous studies. The vast number
of markers allowed the scientists to decipher the bees’
genetic information more precisely than ever before.
In a third expansion in the Americas, the European
honeybee, introduced around 1622, was replaced by the African
killer bee in 1956, the researcher write in the Oct. 27 issue
of the journal Science.
“By studying the variation in the honeybee
genome, we can not only monitor the movement of these bees, we
can also identify the genes that cause the variations –
and that will allow us to better understand the differences,”
North American Honeybees
The Environment News Service reports that a new
study from the National Research Council has found that honeybees
and other pollinators are declining in North America. The report
sounds a specific warning for the honeybee, which are vital to
U.S. agriculture, pollinating more than 90 commercially grown
crops. It can take a massive amount of bees to ensure a crop is
For example, it takes about 1.4 million colonies
of honeybees to pollinate 550,000 acres of almond trees in California.
U.S. honeybee populations have declined at least
30 percent since the 1980s, when a non-native parasitic mite was
The committee said that the full extent of the
decline is unclear because of problems with the way the federal
government collects statistics on the beekeeping industry.
Antibiotic-resistant pathogens and encroachment
by Africanized honeybees also are hurting North American honeybee
levels, the committee said, and there is clear evidence of a honeybee
The populations of other pollinators like butterflies, bats and
hummingbirds are also on the decline.
Posted on November 3, 2006