Honeybees in Kenya

There are many different species of bees in the world most of them solitary (living alone). A few species of honeybees are kept for pollination and honey production. In Kenya the most important species is called the honeybee or Apis mellifera. This is the species of bee that is familiar to everyone. This article is about this species of bee. The Apis Mellifera species has a number of races of bees in Kenya. Each have their own distinct characteristics. They include:

Apis Mellifera Yemenitica (formally A. M. Nubica)

This is the smallest race in Africa. It has the most slender abdomen and the largest yellow abdominal colour band of all African races. It commonly withstands and survives drought conditions by frequent migration. Its mainly found in the northern parts of Kenya.

Apis Mellifera Scutellata

Bees from the savannahs of central and equatorial East Africa. This is the species that was introduced to South America and became infamously known as the “killer bee”. This is a small bee with a short tongue which is highly aggressive and swarms frequently and is able to nest in a broad range of sites from cavities to open places. It is found in plains and their high reproductive rate is attributed to massive flowering, which occurs in the plains just after the rains.

Apis Mellifera Littorea

This bee inhabits the low lands of the Kenya Coast. It does not migrate as much as scutellata. It has a tendency to rear brood throughout the year due to availability of forage along the coast.

Apis Mellifers Monticola

This is the mountain bee because its found at high altitudes in Tanzania and Kenya – 1,500 – 3,100 meters.

The bee inhabits places where the sun is frequently obscured by clouds and mist and ground frosts can occur at night. It is the largest bee in Africa. They tend to reduce brood rearing at the first sign of forage decline and may not migrate.

It is less productive and less vicious. Its found in Meru and Mt. Elgon. (Source National Beekeeping Station, Nairobi).

Honeybees from other African Countries

Apis Mellifera Intermissa

North African race of honeybee found north of the Sahara from Libya to Morocco. The bee is reputedly very aggressive and swarms frequently. During droughts over 80% of colonies may die but owing to intensive swarming colony numbers increase when conditions improve.

Apis Mellifera Lamarckii

Egyptian honeybees found in North East Africa, primarily in Egypt and the Sudan along the Nile Valley. Like Intermissa, they rear numerous queens with one colony recorded as rearing 368 queen cells and producing one small swarm with 30 queens.

Apis Mellifera Adansonii

These bees can be found in West Africa and are yellow in color. They appear to be very similar to scutellata in many of their behaviors.

Apis Mellifera Capensis

Their origin is South Africa and are unique among Apis mellifera. This is because they have a common occurrence of female-producing laying workers. Some of these races can be highly aggressive if you disturb the nest, but stay calm if there is no brood or honey in store to protect.

The African bees are also more likely to abscond (abandon) their hives on slight disturbances and in some areas the colonies migrate seasonally.


  1. Beekeeping Technical Handbook 2013 by the National Beekeeping Institute
  2. British Beekeepers Association

By Isaac Adala

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Honeybees in Kenya
8 Honey Bee Pests Controlling TipsPhoto by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Honeybee Pests Controlling Tips

Honeybeee pests controlling TipsUse of small bee entrance holes. This will help control and avoid beetle invasions. Regular hive inspection and physical removal of some pests such as beetles. Clear bushes beneath and around the hives.…
Ten Factors Consider Setting Apiary
How Bee Hive Technology Improves Honey Quality

How Beehive Technology Improves Honey Quality

Using beehive technology improves honey quality. For example, modern bee hives like Kenya top bar hive and Langstroth hives whose combs can be lifted from the hive and replaced. This allows a beekeeper to examine the condition of the colony…