Evolution of the Honey Bee


How many species of insects are there?

There are nearly 1 million described species of insects. It is believed that there could actually be 5 to 30 million individual species of insects.


Evolution of the insect

The earliest definitive insects can be found in the Devonian period around 400 million years ago and these were already well developed. Insects are in the Arthropod phyla but the exact relationship between the various groups Crustacea, Spiders and Insects is not clear.

All insects appear to have evolved from on the land and then where applicable returned to the water. The insect respiratory tract from their closed tracheal system. Insects and their nymphs which readapt to water, have gill systems (tracheal gills) which originate from the terrestrial tracheal system. Crustacea have gill systems which are not tracheal.

One issue of early insect evolution is the evolution of the wing. The earliest insects have wings already formed. In fact some extact insects actually had 3 pairs of wings (Palaeodictyoptera). The wings may have evolved from tracheal gills. In the Mayfly the tracheal gills are very similar in structure to wings. If wings evolved in insects on the land, their early use may have been for gliding from the tops of plants back onto the ground. Once wings were formed, the insects who were able to fold their wings would have an advantage in begin able to exploit smaller niches. Today the neopterous (wing folding insects) are the dominant form of insect.While many orders of insects have a very long heritage Mayflies (Ephemeroptera), Cockroaches (Blattodea), Dragon flies (Odonata), and Grasshoppers (Orthoptera) are evident in the Carboniferous period. Other modern orders have evolved with the devopment of the flower plants Butterflies (Lepidoptera), flies (Diptera) and beetles (Coleoptera).


Major orders of insects

Coleoptera 38 %

Lepidoptera 16 %

Hymenoptera 13 % - the order to which Apis belongs.

Diptera 12 %

Others 21 %


Species of Apis

There are 7 species of Apis


Dwarf Honey bees Apis andreniformis

Apis florea


Giant Honey bees Apis dorsata


Western Honey bee Apis mellifera

Apis nigrocincta

Apis cerana

Apis koschevnikovi Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo