The Cape honey bee or Cape bee, also known as Kaapse bye (Afrikaans); Inyosi (isiXhosa), nyoxi (Xitsonga), is a southern South African subspecies of the Western honey bee. The Cape bee is only found in the Western Cape and parts of the Eastern Cape (in the fynbos areas), while the African honeybee subspecies is native to central and most of southern Africa.
These beautiful insects play a big role in stimulating the economy of the Western Cape through pollinating fruit and vegetable crops, and honey production. Humans also value the wax to make candles, furniture polish, soap and cosmetics and other art and crafts, like jewellery design and manufacturing.
The honey bee is the cornerstone of our ecology; we love and appreciate them so much that we had to create our own Honey Bee Jewellery collection.
What sets them apart from honey bee subspecies is that the workers can lay diploid, female eggs, by means of thelytoky, while workers of other subspecies (including unmated females of virtually all other eusocial insects) can only lay haploid, male eggs. The Cape honey bee`s stripes are also darker in colour compared to other honeybees.
Cape Honey Bee Conservation Status
Officially the Cape honey bee is classified as not threatened, but in reality they face diminishing forage resources, diseases, as well as problems caused by the improper use of pesticides and insecticides in the environment.
In December 2008, American foulbrood disease spread to the Cape honey bee population in the Western Cape and an estimated 40% of the region’s honey bee population was infected and wiped out by 2015. More than 300 hives were destroyed and more were threatened with starvation during the tragic Knysna fires in 2017. A further 700 hives were destroyed in the Thronhill area due to additional fires at the same time.
South Africa also face a unique problem in that the Cape honeybee can become a social parasite if introduced in the other subspecies (A. m. scutellata) range. To remedy this, a dividing line has been drawn to separate the area in which A. m. scutellata and A. m. capensis can be used for beekeeping activities and no bees may be transported across the demarcation line.
Visit SANBI for more information about our Cape honey bees.
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