Phylogenetic relationships of honey bees (Hymenoptera:Apinae:Apini) inferred from nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequence data

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2005 Oct;37(1):25-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2005.02.017. Epub 2005 Apr 19.


Two different genomic regions (ND2 mitochondrial gene and EF1-alpha intron) were PCR amplified, cloned and sequenced for the ten known honey bee species collected within their natural range distribution. DNA sequences were analyzed using parsimony, distance and maximum likelihood methods to investigate phylogenetic relationships within Apis. The phylogenetic analyses strongly supported the basic topology recoverable from morphometric analysis, grouping the honey bees into three major clusters: giant bees (A. dorsata, A. binghami, and A. laboriosa), dwarf bees (A. andreniformis and A. florea), and cavity-nesting bees (A. mellifera, A. cerana, A. koschevnikovi, A. nuluensis, and A. nigrocincta). However, the clade of Asian cavity-nesting bees included paraphyletic taxa. Exemplars of Apis cerana collected from divergent portions of its range were less related to each other than were sympatric A. cerana, A. nuluensis, and A. nigrocincta taxa. Nucleotide sequence divergence between allopatrically distributed western (A. mellifera) and eastern (A. cerana, A. koschevnikovi, A. nigrocincta, and A. nuluensis) cavity-nesting species, around 18% for the mitochondrial gene and 10-15% for the nuclear intron, suggested an earlier divergence for these groups than previously estimated from morphometric and behavioral studies. This latter finding neccessitates reevaluation of the hypothesized origin of extant European, African, and west Asian Apis mellifera. Sequence divergence between A. laboriosa and A. dorsata was consistent with behavioral data and supports the species status of A. laboriosa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Bees / classification
  • Bees / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, Insect*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Hymenoptera
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Electron Transport Complex IV