The geographic Distribution of Apis mellifera


The Western honeybee, Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera, Apidae) is an old and highly successful species.  The development of colony life relaxed environmental constraints allowing honeybees to expand across a broad range of climatic and ecological conditions.  It adapted to arid sub-tropical conditions in the south, to cold temperate conditions in the north, and its range extends across Western Europe from the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula, to the Ural Mountains in the East.  Correspondingly diverse ecotypes evolved against this broad ecological background and there are currently 24-26 recognized ecotypes or subspecies.  Morphological comparisons by F. Rutter, later supported by genetic analyses, collapse these sub-species into four distinct lineages (M, O, A and C).  Recent analyses of whole genome data propose an alternative to the previously accepted hypothesis that the honey bee radiation initiated in Asia, suggesting instead, two possibly separate out of Africa expansions and subsequent radiations.  In addition, a new sub-species in the M linage was recently identified in north west China.  The region is geographically distant from the closest known sister groups (A. m. mellifera and iberica) hence the out of Afica expansion theory of may need updating... (see the link below).   That's science for you.