Free access
Volume 40, Number 3, May-June 2009
Bee conservation
Page(s) 263 - 284
Published online 07 July 2009
Apidologie 40 (2009) 263-284
DOI: 10.1051/apido/2009027

Biodiversity, conservation and current threats to European honeybees

Pilar De la Rúa1, Rodolfo Jaffé2, Raffaele Dall'Olio3, Irene Muñoz1 and José Serrano1

1  Dpto. de Zoologia y Antropología Física, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de Murcia, 30100 Murcia, Spain
2  Institut für Biologie, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Hoher Weg 4, 06099 Halle (Saale), Germany
3  CRA-API, Via di Saliceto 80, 40128 Bologna, Italy

Received 12 August 2008 – Revised 20 January 2009 – Accepted 12 February 2009 - Published online 7 July 2009

Abstract - Europe harbours several endemic honeybee (Apis mellifera) subspecies. Yet the distribution of these subspecies is nowadays also much influenced by beekeeping activities. Large scale migratory beekeeping and trade in queens, coupled with the promiscuous mating system of honeybees, have exposed native European honeybees to increasing introgressive hybridization with managed non-native subspecies, which may lead to the loss of valuable combinations of traits shaped by natural selection. Other threats to European honeybees are factors that have caused a progressive decline in A. mellifera throughout the world in recent years, leading to large economic losses and jeopardizing ecosystem functioning. We review the biodiversity of European honeybees and summarize the management and conservation strategies employed by different countries. A comprehensive picture of the beekeeping industry in Europe is also provided. Finally we evaluate the potential threats affecting the biodiversity of European honeybee populations and provide some perspectives for future research.

Key words: Apis mellifera / subspecies / biogeography / conservation / Europe / beekeeping

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2009