Tribe: Apini Latreille, 1802
Genus: Apis Linnaeus, 1758
Subgenus: Apis (Apis) Linnaeus, 1758
Species: Apis cerana Fabricius, 1793
Common names: Asian honey bee, Asiatic honey bee, or eastern honey bee
The Asian honey bee is one of the most morphologically diverse species of honey bees, to the extent that multiple subspecies or races are recognized. Asian honey bees have a body length of around 9 mm, and body coloration varies among the different races. A. cerana is the primary host of the parasitic mites Varroa jacobsoni and V. destructor.
As with all species of honey bees, A. cerana is a generalist and visits a broad range of plants for food.
Nests of A. cerana are built in enclosed cavities and consist of multiple combs arranged parallel to one another and separated by a uniform distance. Colonies of A. cerana are smaller (with around 7000 individuals) than those of Apis mellifera (Winston 1991), and hence this species prefers smaller cavities. In addition, colonies of A. cerana do not use propolis for sealing of their nest, whereas A. mellifera colonies do.
There are multiple studies on the variability of A. cerana, but one of the most remarkable works includes Radloff, et al. (2010) who presented a list of all the studies dealing with variations among populations of A. cerana and also identified six morphoclusters within A. cerana. Previously, Radloff, et al. (2005) demonstrated that sub-Himalayan populations of A. cerana had smaller sizes in eastern populations and larger sizes with increasing altitude. Zhen Ming, et al. (1992) and Partap (1999) documented multiple subspecies of A. cerana in China, and Tan, et al. (2002, 2003) found different subspecies when comparing A. cerana from northern and southern Yunnan province.
Although endemic to most of Asia, A cerana has been introduced since the 1980’s into areas outside its natural range, such as New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Australia (Koetz 2013).
Found across most of Asia, from the Middle East and India to Japan and south to the Philippines; more recently it has been introduced into Oceania. This species inhabits a large range of habitats with varied climatic conditions, from cool regions in higher latitudes and altitudes, to dry, semi-desert environments, as well as tropical climates (Gupta 2014, Koetz 2013).