The relationship between honey bees and humans goes back thousands of years. Before modern beekeeping, people were “honey hunters” and harvested honey by taking comb from wild beehives. Honey was often the only source of sugar and was considered very valuable. Cave paintings from 7000 BCE depict honey hunters collecting honey this way. Later, people began keeping bees in hollow logs, clay pots, and straw baskets across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Advances in honey bee biology and beekeeping occurred throughout the 1500s to the 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1852 that the modern, removable frame hive was created by Lorenzo L. Langstroth. This innovation allowed beekeepers to work more easily with their bees and eliminated the need to damage the hive to harvest honey or inspect the colony. His work in beekeeping gave him the title of the “father of modern beekeeping”.
There are eight species of honey bees in the genus Apis. The European honey bee or Apis malifera, is native to Europe and has been introduced across North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand. The European honey bee is the most common species used in beekeeping.
Africanized honey bees are a hybrid of the European honey bee and the East African lowland honey bee. They were cross bread in Brazil in 1956 by researchers working to increase honey yields. Some of the hybrid bees escaped and their genetics began to take over in the area, eventually spreading throughout South America and the southern United States. Africanized bees are difficult to work with because they are prone to swarming and are extremely defensive. Despite these difficulties, beekeepers have learnt to work with Africanized bees over the past decades and continue to use them for pollination and honey production