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Apis mellifera iberiensis

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Subfamily: Apinae
Genus: Apis
Subgenus: Apis
Species: A. mellifera
Subspecies: A. m. iberiensis
Trinomial name
Apis mellifera iberiensis
Engel, 1999 [1]

Apis mellifera iberiensis (often misnamed iberica), commonly called the Spanish bee, is a Western honey bee subspecies native to the Iberian Peninsula. Also found in the Balearic Islands.[2]


This sub-species is well characterized towards the south and west of a line passing from Zaragoza to Barcelona in the Iberian peninsula.[3] belonging to the lineage postglacial M of Apis mellifera.[4]


Apis mellifera iberiensis are very vigorous and active at temperatures where other subspecies of bees are not leaving the hive, supporting long, cold winters. They have a length of the forewings with an average of 9.226 mm and 3.098 mm [5] while the width of the subspecies Apis mellifera mellifera is 9.381 mm and 3.0293 mm respectively. The first description of this bee of the Iberian Peninsula was published in the magazine Bee World, made by B. Adam. F. Ruttner described it in his book "Biogeography and Taxonomy of Honeybees." in base to the description of B. Adam, but like several authors prior to him (e.g., Goetze, 1964) erroneously equated this bee with the subspecies proposed by Skorikov (1929) as Apis mellifera iberica (Skorikov, however, proposed the name for a subspecies occurring in the Caucasus and based the name on the ancient Greco-Roman designation for the Georgian Kingdom, Caucasian Iberians, existing there in antiquity). Thus, the name as employed by Ruttner was an error, leaving Apis mellifera iberiensis as the only valid name for this race of honey bees. B.Adam collect their views on a trip he made in 1959 by Spain and Portugal.

A. m. iberiensis has the body size of European subspecies with forewings narrower and wider abdomen. It is mostly dark brown to jet-black. The darkness is accentuated by the low tomentum and low hairiness. The queens are black almost uniform in color. They are prolific and with high fertility controlled by environmental conditions.[6] The closing membrane of the cells is watery, the breeding is sensitive to some diseases.


They make a great use of propolis. There are not coexistence of multiple queens or polygyny in the same hive at swarming time. The movements are fast and rather nervous. Quick defensive reaction, nervousness, propensity to swarm. They do abundant use of propolis.[6] One or two sentrie bees, are always at the entrance of the Hive. If the colony is disturbed, the sentries are dispatching alarm for at least 24 hours to attack anything that resembles a threat. The sorrow hive may attacking anything that seems threatening by at least 24 hours.


The name often applied to this race is A.m.iberica, an epithet originally proposed by Skorikov in his 1929 monograph on honey bees. Authors subsequent to Skorikov assumed in error that the iberica referred to the Iberian Peninsula and thereby quickly adopted the name for the race of bees living in Spain and bordering areas. However, the name iberica was based on a Caucasian race of honey bees, the epithet referring to the Greco-Roman designation for the Georgian Kingdom established in that region in antiquity. The true A. m. iberica of Skorikov has nothing to do with the western Mediterranean race of bees, and under the rules of nomenclature the name iberica is not valid for this lineage of honey bees. The corrected and valid name for the race is Apis mellifera iberiensis.

In a comparative study of A.m.iberiensis and five others sub-species of Apis mellifera including A.m.intermissa, A. m. monticola, A. m. scutellata, A. m. adansonii and A. m. capensis [7][8] (Smith,Palopoli,Taylor,Garnery,Cornuet,Solignac,Brown 1991) cleavage maps obtained through the use of restriction enzyme [9] showed the Spanish Honey bee contains mtDNA similar to intermissa and also mellifera.[10] Additionally A.m.intermissa belongs to a group shown by experiment to have similar mtD.N.A (mitochondrian D.N.A.),this including monticola, scuttelata,andansonii and capensis [7][8][11]

In Spanish bee populations, mtDNA haplotypes of African bee strains were found to be frequently present (Smith 1991, Garnery et al 1995) (Cornuet et al 1975,1978, 1982, 1988; Ruttner 1988;Cornuet and Fresnaye 1989;Orante-Bermejos and Garcia-Fernandez 1995; Hepburn and Radloff 1996). Migrating bee populations formed the original colonies of bee in western Europe, landing to eventually populate the continent from Africa across the Straits of Gibraltar.[12]


The Iberian Peninsula is an area of hybridization between the north of Africa and Europe, Apis mellifera mellifera, is localized in the northern, Apis mellifera intermissa, and A. m. iberiensis are naturally present too.[6]

A. m. iberiensis haplotype is present in the honey bees of the western United States[13] where the honey bees are not native and they were introduced from Spain during the conquest of America.

Presents six haplotypes different, five of them correspond to an evolutionary lineage from Africa and one from West Europa. From this, infer the hybrid nature of this subspecies, which has a predominant influence in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, with a North African component that is gradually replaced towards the north, through the lineage of Apis mellifera mellifera.

The genetic variability of the microsatellite of the chromosomes, is similar to that of African populations in the number of alleles detected and the values of genetic diversity. This suggests the genetic relationship between populations of Andalusia and North Africa.

Studied be populations of Portugal there were no major differences between different geographical locations. Morphometric studies of Apis mellifera iberiensis populations in Asturias and northern Iberian peninsula indicated that the Cantabrian Mountains produces insulation allowing for differences between populations.

The results of microsatellites vary markedly between provinces. In Cadiz haplotype homogeneity contrasts with the microsatellite variability, suggesting the occurrence of recent phenomena of introgression from populations with African haplotypes, whose origin is indeterminate.

Western honey bees differentiated into geographic subspecies as they spread from Asia into Europe and Africa. There are currently 28 recognized subspecies of Apis mellifera based largely on these geographic variations. All subspecies are cross fertile. Geographic isolation led to numerous local adaptations as this species spread after the last ice age. These adaptations include brood cycles synchronized with the bloom period of local flora, forming a winter cluster in colder climates, migratory swarming in Africa, enhanced foraging behavior in desert areas, and numerous other inherited traits.

The Western honey bee is native to the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. As of the early 1500s, the Apis mellifera iberiensis was introduced to the Americas, with subsequent introductions of other European subspecies three centuries later.[14] Since then, they have spread throughout the Americas. The 28 subspecies can be assigned to one of four major branches based on work by Ruttner and subsequently confirmed by analysis of mitochondrial DNA. African subspecies are assigned to branch A, northwest European subspecies to branch M, southwest European subspecies to branch C, and Mideast subspecies to branch O. The subspecies are grouped and listed.

The Western honey bee is the third insect, to have its genome mapped. The genome is unusual in having very few transposons. According to the scientists who analysed its genetic code, the western honey bee originated in Africa and spread to Europe in two ancient migrations.[15] They have also discovered that the number of genes in the honey bees related to smell outnumber those for taste.[16] The genome sequence revealed several groups of genes, particularly the genes related to circadian rhythms, were closer to vertebrates than other insects. Genes related to enzymes that control other genes were also vertebrate-like.[17]


  1. Cánovas, F.; De la Rúa, P.; Serrano, J.; Galián, J. (2007). "Geographical patterns of mitochondrial DNA variation in Apis mellifera iberiensis (Hymenoptera: Apidae)". Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research (Wiley) 46 (1): 24–30. 
  2. Diversitat de l'abella de la mel
  3. Caracterització de les abelles de la mel d'Ibèria
  4. Beekeeping and the Conservation of Native Honeybees in Europe
  5. An adventitious distal abcissa in the forewing
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2
  7. 7.0 7.1 L Garnery, J M Cornuet and M Solignac Evolutionary history of the honey bee Apis mellifera inferred from mitochondrial DNA analysis. Mol Ecol 1(3):145-54 (1992) PMID 1364272 Template:Doi [Retrieved 2011-12-19]
  8. 8.0 8.1 John E. Dews, Eric Milner Breeding Better Bees (80 pages) WritersPrintShop, 2004 ISBN 1-904623-18-2 [Retrieved 2011-12-19]
  9. [Retrieved 2011-12-19]
  10. D. R. Smith, M. F. Palopoli, B. R. Taylor, L. Garnery, J.-M. Cornuet, M. Solignac, W. M. Brown [ (The American Genetic Association 1991) Geographical Overlap of Two Mitochondrial Genomes in Spanish Honeybees (Apis mellifera iberica) The Journal of Heredity]. Oxford University Press 03/01/1991. Retrieved on 2011-12-19.
  11. M.Chouchene, N. Barbouche, M.Garnery, L.Baylac Nimis P.L. Vignes Lebbe R (eds.) Tools for Identifying Biodiversity: Progress and Problems p.343 Molecular and ecophysiological characterisation of the Tunisian bee : Apis mellifera intermissa ISBN 978-88-8303-295-0 EUT,2010[Retrieved 2011-12-20]
  12. Pierre Franck, Lionel Garnery, Michel Solignac and Jean-Marie Cornuet (1997) JSTOR The Origin of West European Subspecies of Honeybees (Apis mellifera): New Insights from Microsatellite and Mitochondrial Data EvolutionVol. 52, No. 4 (Aug., 1998), pp. 1119-1134 (article consists of 16 pages) Published by: Society for the Study of Evolution [Retrieved 2011-12-22]
  13. Carcaterització genètica de les abelles
  14. "Research upsetting some notions about honey bees", ScienceDaily, December 29, 2006. 
  15. Charles W. Whitfield, Susanta K. Behura , Stewart H. Berlocher, Andrew G. Clark, J. Spencer Johnston, Walter S. Sheppard, Deborah R. Smith, Andrew V. Suarez, Daniel Weaver & Neil D. Tsutsui (2006). "Thrice out of Africa: ancient and recent expansions of the honey bee, Apis mellifera" (PDF). Science 314 (5799): 642–645. Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print. Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print. 
  16. Honey Bee Genome Sequencing Consortium (2006). [[[:Template:Hide in print]] "Insights into social insects from the genome of the honeybee Apis mellifera"]. Nature 443 (7114): 931–949. Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print. Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print. Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print. Template:Hide in print. 
  17. Ying Wang, Mireia Jorda, Peter L. Jones, Ryszard Maleszka, Xu Ling, Hugh M. Robertson, Craig A. Mizzen, Miguel A. Peinado & Gene E. Robinson (2006). "Functional CpG methylation system in a social insect". Science 314 (5799): 645–647. Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print. Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print. This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).