The origin of our honeybee lays most likely in Asia, where it originated alongside other Apis species about 6 to 9 million years ago. About a million years ago, the honeybee (Apis mellifera) finally spread from Asia to Africa and Europe and had to adapt to the new environmental conditions. Through this adaptation process, four major evolutionary lines of the western honeybee were created: the M line (Western and Northern Europe), the C line (Eastern Europe), the O line (Middle East and Central Asia) and the A line (Africa). The natural habitat of the honeybee extends from the southern tip of Africa through savannah, rainforest, desert, Mediterranean to southern Scandinavia. Among those various habitats, diverse subspecies have emerged, each being adapted to its specific habitat, climatic conditions, flora and fauna. Today more than 28 honeybee subspecies are described. These subspecies, although not clearly distinguishable by their exteriour, are genetically distinct and can be distinguished by use of specific DNA analyzes.
Nowadays, the majority of bees in Europe belong the the subpeices A.m. carnica and A.m.ligustica. The originally dominating subspecies in Western and Northernd Europe has mostly been replaced and is occurring in small population fragments throughout Europe (www.sicamm.org). Since 20 years, the cross-breed Buckfast is adding to the amalgamation.
Honeybees generally thrive of genetic diversity on its many different levels. First, the healthy environment with it rich diversity of pollen and nectar sources are prime condition for their nutritional balance.
Second, the diversity among different populations or subspecies, each adapted to their specific environments.
Third, the genetic diversity within the hive, which is key to their health, vitality, thermoregulation and productivity.
Fourth, the genetic diversity within the individual. The lack therof is called inbreeding and leads to inbreeding depression.