Egyptian honeybee

Ark of taste
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In speculations on the evolution of honeybee races, the Egyptian honeybee (Apis mellifera lamarckii) plays an important role. It is regarded as a ‘primary race,’ from which all yellow honeybee races of Africa, the Orient and also A. m. ligustica (the Italian honeybee) are derived.

It is a very small bee, with an extreme slenderness characteristic of a sub-Saharan race. It is also short-tongued, short-winged and short-legged. The drones are smaller than in any other race examined, thus differing from the relative position of the workers. The Egyptian honeybee is not well adapted to winter in temperate zones. From drawings dated from 2600 BC, it is known that this was the first bee managed by men, using a technique that is still practiced in Egypt today. It has a long history in apiculture, since colonies of this bee were shipped to Germany, England, and North America as early as the 1860s. In Berlin, an ‘acclimatization association’ was founded in 1864 with the special aim of importing bees from Egypt. The reason for this zeal in the apicultural world was the conspicuous color pattern of this bee: shining white, ‘silvery’ hair on the thorax and abdomen stripes and bright copper-yellow bands with shining black margins on the abdomen. This race is both beautifully colored and considered to have good behavior for apiculture.

The Egyptian honeybee’s native habitat is restricted to the narrow Egyptian Nile valley.

It has been displaced in much of its native range through the deliberate importation and propagation of European subspecies. Of particular relevance has been the widespread promulgation of the Carniolan honeybee (A. m. carnica, native to Eastern Europe and the Balkans) in modern beekeeping equipment and the corresponding elimination of traditional mud-tube hives. Breeding programs utilizing Carniolan honeybees have produced a bee tolerant of Egyptian conditions, but susceptible to the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor. As a result, there has been widespread use of chemical pesticides in beehives. Recently, there has been increased interest in utilizing the native subspecies of Egypt, both for its adaptation to climatic conditions and the possibility that it, as other African subspecies, may be tolerant to parasitic mites. While about 96,000 colonies were counted in 1995, ten years later the population was reduced to just 15,500, mainly in the Assiut region of central Egypt.

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Production area:Nile Valley

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Nominated by:Francesco Impallomeni