Guardian Nature School Team Contact Blog Project Noah Facebook Project Noah Twitter

A global community of nature enthusiasts
photographing and learning about wildlife

Join Project Noah!
nature school apple icon

Project Noah Nature School visit nature school

Cape Honey Bee

Apis mellifera capensis


Apis mellifera capensis, the Cape honey bee or Cape bee is a southern South African subspecies of the Western honey bee. They are unique among honey bee subspecies because workers can lay diploid, female eggs, by means of thelytoky, while workers of other subspecies (and, in fact, unmated females of virtually all other eusocial insects) can only lay haploid, male eggs. Not all workers are capable of thelytoky- only those expressing the thelytoky phenotype, which is controlled by a recessive allele at a single locus (workers must be homozygous at this locus to be able to reproduce by thelytoky).n 1990 beekeepers transported Cape honey bees into northern South Africa, where they don't occur naturally. This has created a problem for the region's A. m. scutellata populations.[2] Reproducing diploid females without fertilization bypasses the eusocial insect hierarchy; an individual more related to her own offspring than to the offspring of the queen will trade in her inclusive fitness benefits for individual fitness benefits of reproducing her own young.[3] This opens up the possibility of social parasitism: if a female worker expressing the thelytokous phenotype from a Cape honey bee colony can enter a colony of A. m. scutellata, she can potentially take over that African bee colony.[4] A behavioral consequence of the thelytoky phenotype is queen pheromonal mimicry, which means the parasitic workers can sneak their eggs in to be raised with those from the African bees, and their eggs aren't policed by the African bee workers because they're similar to the African bee queen's eggs.[5] As a result the parasitic A. m. capensis workers increase in number within a host colony, while numbers of the A. m. scutellata workers that perform foraging duties (A. m. capensis workers are greatly under-represented in the foraging force of an infected colony) dwindle, owing to competition in egg laying between A. m. capensis workers and the queen, and to the eventual death of the queen. This causes the death of the colony upon which the capensis females depended, so they will then seek out a new host colony.


Western Cape...


This hive started out in a woodpecker's nest (Probably Knysna or Cardinal Woodpecker) which was carved out into a Outeniqua Yellowwood. Once space became a problem inside, continuing outside was the logical choice!

Species ID Suggestions

Sign in to suggest organism ID


naross 9 years ago

Very interesting. Cheers for the description, and of course for the excellent photos.

Jared Hersch
Jared Hersch 9 years ago

Nice one Nielien! This is your best spot yet!! So interesting!

Neilen Joyce
Neilen Joyce 9 years ago

Thank you everyone! Bees are by far my favourite insect. Wonderfully organized, ultra clean, produce a variety of products and unbeknownst to them pollenate plants for provide food for humans and animals alike!

Ava T-B
Ava T-B 9 years ago

Wonderful series.

Ietermagog 9 years ago

This is awesome & so interesting!

Johan Heyns
Johan Heyns 9 years ago

I suggest you put one of the last two photos first to draw the eye!

RiekoS 9 years ago

Very interesting series.

Johan Heyns
Johan Heyns 9 years ago

Nice spotting Neilen!

Neilen Joyce
Spotted by
Neilen Joyce

Knysna Local Municipality, Western Cape, South Africa

Spotted on Mar 3, 2013
Submitted on Mar 3, 2013

Related Spottings

abelha-europeia .. Apis mellifera De honingbij (Apis mellifera) Honeybee Bee

Nearby Spottings

Caracal The serval Cat. Tiger Forest Cat Aloe microstigma Common Spreadwing
Noah Guardians
Noah Sponsors
join Project Noah Team

Join the Project Noah Team