, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 391-397

The size of wild honeybee populations (Apis mellifera) and its implications for the conservation of honeybees

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Abstract

The density of wild honeybee colonies (Apis mellifera) in the African dry highland savannahs was estimated in three Nature Reserves in Gauteng, South Africa (Ezemvelo, Leeuwfontein, Suikerbosrand) based on the genotypes of drones which were caught at drone congregation areas. Densities were estimated to range between 12.4 and 17.6 colonies per square kilometer. In addition colony densities were estimated in two German National parks (Müritz and Hochharz) and a commercial mating apiary. The density of colonies was significantly lower at the German sampling sites with estimates of 2.4–3.2 colonies per square kilometer, which closely matches the nation-wide density of colonies kept by beekeepers. This shows that the densities of colonies observed in wild populations under the harsh conditions of the African dry savannahs exceeds that of Germany by far, in spite of intensive beekeeping. The intensity of apiculture in Europe is therefore unlikely to compensate for the loss of habitats suitable for wild honeybees due to agriculture, forestry and other cultivation of land.