Honey has had a wide array of uses throughout history. It’s been used as a sweetener as well as medicine. This is why the honey bee has been considered one of the most important insects in human history. Contrary to popular belief, honey bees aren’t actually the only type of bees that can produce honey. While not all bees make honey, there are many species that do. If you want to learn more about this, then we’ve got just the thing for you. Here’s a brief breakdown of the different types of bees that can make honey.
Honey bees are most commonly found in the genus Apis. The majority of these bees are from southeast Asia, with the exception of one bee. The genus is divided into three sub-groups.
The European and Asian honey bees are the most popular among beekeepers, as they produce large amounts of honey. The Asian honey bee is mostly found in East Asia, where it is often raised in boxes similar to the way European honey bees are. In recent years, it has also been found in Australia and the Solomon Islands.
The dwarf honey bee is much smaller than the other types of honey bees and builds its nest in trees and shrubs. Each colony only has one comb, which is exposed to the air and usually wrapped around a tree branch. The females have very small stingers that can barely penetrate human skin, but they don't produce much honey, so they are not managed by beekeepers.
The giant honey bee is actually two different species, Apis dorsata and Apis laboriosa. These bees build their nests high up in trees, on cliffs, and buildings. This ancient practice of honey hunting developed around these bees, and Apis dorsata is the species depicted in the ancient cave paintings found in Valencia, Spain. They can be deadly to those not trained to handle them properly because they are large and fiercely defensive.
Bumble bees also produce honey, even though it's not enough for humans to harvest. If you've ever seen a small wax thimble filled with golden liquid, that's bumble bee honey. Bumble bee queens secrete wax scales from glands on their underside, similar to honey bee workers. In spring, they use these scales to make thimble-like pots. They fill the pots with honey, which they will use to feed their young.
Bumble bee queens start their nests alone, sitting on their first batch of eggs to keep them warm. If they were to leave, the cold, rainy spring weather could kill the eggs. The stockpile of honey the queen has provided her with enough energy to stay and vibrate her flight muscles to generate heat. Once the worker bees emerge four days later, the queen can stay in the nest and lay eggs while the young workers go out and gather food and build the nest.
There are around 600 species of stingless bees found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, including Australia, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Not all of these bees produce honey, but many have been kept by humans for centuries. Today, this practice is called meliponiculture, and it involves keeping bees in vertical log hives or rectangular wooden plank hives. The bees build their nests by stacking brood combs horizontally, with the honey pots constructed at the outer edges.
Families would traditionally raise eight or ten different species of stingless bees, depending on what was available locally. They would harvest the honey two-to-four times per year by sucking it out of individual waxen pots with a syringe and squeezing it into a pitcher.
We hope this article proves to be useful when it comes to helping you gain a better understanding of the different types of bees that can produce honey. As you can see, many species of bees can produce honey — all of which produce sweet nectar in different ways. Feel free to look back on this article if you ever need a quick refresher on the different types of bees.
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