Honey Bee

The Cape honey bee, Apis mellifera capensis Escholtz, is a subspecies (or race) of the western honey bee, A. mellifera Linnaeus, that occurs naturally in the Cape region of South Africa. Upon casual observation, Cape bees look very similar to another race of honey bee present in South Africa, A.m. scutellata Lepeltier (the ‘African’ honey bee of the Americas). Yet reproductively, Cape bees differ significantly from A.m. scutellata and other honey bee races, making it perhaps the most distinctive race of A. mellifera worldwide.


Cape bees have been distinguished from A.m. scutellata and other African races of honey bees using morphometric techniques. Genetic analyses are used increasingly as complications with morphometric techniques arise. Most beekeepers in South Africa use other characteristics to identify Cape bees, namely:

  • the ability of worker bees to produce female offspring
  • the highly developed ovaries in Cape laying-workers, and
  • small, queenless swarms.