Temporal range: Oligocene–Recent
|Western honey bee carrying pollen back to the hive|
Honey bees are the only living members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis. There are only seven species of honey bee, with a total of 44 subspecies. Historically, from six to eleven species have been recognized.
Honey bees are only a small fraction of the roughly 20,000 known species of bees. Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees. The study of honey bees is known as 'melittology'.
The first Apis bees appear in the fossil record at the Eocene–Oligocene boundary (34 million years ago (mya)), in European deposits. This shows that the bees were present in Europe by that time. Few fossil deposits are known from South Asia, the suspected region of honey bee origin.
No Apis species existed in the New World during human times before the introduction of A. mellifera by Europeans. Only one fossil species is known, a single 14-million-year-old specimen from Nevada.
- Engel, Michael S. 1999. "The taxonomy of recent and fossil honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Apis)". Journal of Hymenoptera Research. 8: 165–196.
- Michael S. Engel; et al. (2009). "A honey bee from the Miocene of Nevada and the biogeography of Apis (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Apini)". Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. 60 (3): 23–38.