On Station Performance Evaluation of Local Honey Bee Colonies Traits (Apis Mellifera Scutellata) In Gedeo Zone, Ethiopia Download PDF

Journal Name : SunText Review of BioTechnology

DOI : 10.51737/2766-5097.2022.041

Article Type : Research Article

Authors : Negash D

Keywords : Honeybee; Brood rearing; Hygienic behavior; Absconding


In Ethiopia, despite the potential of apicultural resource, production and productivity are relatively low. This could be due to many factors like management, environmental factors and races of honeybees. The aim of this study was to evaluate productive potentiality trait of local honeybee colonies for further colonies multiplication purpose. We obtained 20 selected strong honeybee colonies from local beekeepers within traditional hives and transferred into movable frame hive at Della site.  All the transferred colonies were managed properly to establish themselves and acquire uniform strength. These colonies were evaluated for different parameters such as hygienic behavior, brood, pollen and nectar area, swarming and absconding tendency at different season.  The result indicated that the mean percent removal per colony varied from 86.57 (February) to 99.62 (August). The highest brood rearing activity was observed in September and March that covered up to 148.9±14.16-unit areas while the least was observed during November (1.19 ±0.43) unit area. Maximum pollen and nectar area was found in October (97.5±12.40) unit area and April (81.88±9.47) unit area. While minimum pollen area (5.25±7.13) unit area and nectar (1.10±0.1) area was occupied in November. In general, the study showed that A. m. scutellate honeybees are good in hygienic behavior and brood rearing performance under optimum management practices in the study area. On average 25% of absconding was observed at study site over the last two years of the study period at the time of pollen and nectar shortage mainly November and May Therefore, it is recommended to investigate its detail behavioral aspects whether it is due to environmental or genetically factor for future selection and improvement


For a successful beekeeper, beekeeping production depends on the selection of better performing honey bee colonies. Thus, selection aims and criteria are important tools in bee breeding program for a beekeeper in an apiary. Colonies in an apiary could be selected on the basis of some of the of most important measurable characteristics viz. spring colony development, gentleness and a tendency to remain calm on the comb, over wintering ability, honey production and resistance against diseases [1-6]. In honeybees as social insect, the colony is the level of selection, but most of the functions are performed by individual workers in the colony. The various production activities of colonies are greatly influenced by the population of adult bees that forms each bee colony. Colonies with larger populations usually perform better than those with smaller populations. Hence, strength of bees in a colony affects productivity because of high level of correlation between hive strength and honey production. There are some of the important factors which affect colony strength viz. egg laying rate, viability rate, brood care, brood development time and life span [7,8]. Although, the worker population of each honey bee colony also depends on food availability (nectar and pollen), oviposition capacity is very important for the generation of populous hives [9]. The effective defiance mechanism against disease is one of the most important functions of the worker bees in a colony. The individual bee’s immune system functions in a similar way to that of vertebrate animals, although the most effective defense mechanism that can lead to self-healing of the bee colony is the social behavior of removing as many pathogen agents or parasites as possible from the bee colony. This behavioral defense (entrance reduction and/or stinging) prevents parasites from penetrating the bee colonies, or their killing or removal. Disease resistance is known to correlate with the “hygienic behavior” of worker bees. This is the ability of workers to recognize dead brood and then remove infected or damaged brood. This characteristic has been found to be regulated by two pairs of recessive genes. The queen honey bee is an important member to a colony’s survival and functions. The longevity of a queen in a colony depends on its reproductive potential, and its permanence in the colony is related to its oviposition capacity, which affects colony viability and vitality. The queen is naturally replaced when the spermatozoa stored in its sperm theca are depleted. Egg-laying capability "is not the only measure of a queen's performance. Queens produce pheromones that greatly affect the activities, especially foraging activity of workers. Pheromone production diminishes in quality and quantity as queen age. In peak season, a queen laid about 2000 eggs. Brood solidness is also an important trait of a colony. Brooding pattern/solidness of a colony could be erratic or solid. Brood solidness of a comb is expressed by the percentage of empty worker cells in a brood patch of a given area. Whether, an acceptable level of empty cells in a comb should be usually less than 10%. In the light of above facts regarding the importance of selection of better performing colonies, those colonies having all these important traits will be selected in breeding yard for further breeding programmed for improvement of the stock. Therefore, the aim of this work was to evaluate productive potentiality trait of local honeybee colonies for further colonies multiplication purpose.

Materials and Methods

Description of the Study area and source of experimental colonies

This study was conducted at Della apiary of Hadassah agricultural research center, south nation, nationality, people regional state, Ethiopia from October 2019 to November 2021 for two and half consecutive years. Twenty Model beekeepers were purposively selected in Della zawiya worked. One strong colony per beekeepers was selected by examined via internal and external observation for their efficiency and purchased and collected in to study site. Finally, the collected colony transferred to improved hive in experimental apiary site. Twenty experimental colonies of honeybees used for this experiment to evaluate the performance. The necessary seasonal colony management activities were undertaken throughout the study period. Performance evaluations of the colonies were studied through the following different parameters.

Data Collection

Evaluation of Hygienic Behavior

Hygienic behavior was determined by a pin-killed brood assay in which the time was recorded for colonies to detect and remove dead brood from a comb section containing 100 cells (containing approximately 100 capped pupae) on one side of the comb. This section of the comb was marked by removing one entire row of cells surrounding the 100 cells. The number of empty cells within the section was counted and recorded. Then every capped pupa within the section was pin-killed and placed back in to the hive of the test colony. After 24 hrs. the frame with the section will be taken out and then, the numbers of remaining dead brood and removed was recorded. This test was repeat five times for all the colonies to be tested for the hygienic behavior. Finally, the percent of removal of dead brood will calculated as follows the formula used by Kebele, 2006.

   R = K- E - C x 100


Where: R = Percent removal of dead brood within 24 hrs.

K = Number of dead broods removed within 24 hrs.

E = Number of empty cells within the section insert before test

C = Number of brood cell remained capped after 24 hrs.

T = Total number of broods within the section of an insert

Evaluation of Brood Area, Pollen and Nectar Storage 

The total brood area was measured during the study periods to determine the brood population using 5cm x 5cm gridded wooden frame and placed over each side of the brood combs. The total brood unit area was calculated from the area occupied by the brood. In addition to this, the comb area occupied by pollen and nectar stores was also measure in the same way.

Number of queen cells produced (Swarming Behavior)

Swarming tendency of the colonies was evaluated by counting the number of queen cells constructed from all colonies under the study. These counted cells were removed immediately to avoid double counting. 

Evaluation of Absconding Tendency

Absconding tendency was assessed by the ratio of colonies evacuating to the total number of colonies used for the experiment provided that all the colonies are kept under uniform environmental condition.

Data Management and Statistical Analysis

Data collected were entered into Microsoft excel 2007 and analyzed using SPSS version 23. Normality of the data was check and they are transformed on Arcsine transformation when necessary. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) will run and Tukey’s student test (HSD) at 5% level of significance will used to make mean separation, whenever significant results will encounter


It may be concluded from the present study that the different traits of colonies were tested. This study revealed that A. m. scutellate honeybee colonies in Gedeon had generally different behavioral and productive performances. The colonies had remarkable hygienic performance in removing pin-killed capped brood that reached up to 99.62% cleaning of dead broods within 24 hrs. in colonies. This high level of hygienic performance could be important in disease, varroa mite, pests, wax moth and bee beetle resistance. The colony strength associated with the performance of colonies and affect productivity of the high level of correlation between brood rearing time, nectar and pollen collection. The highest brood rearing activity was observed in September and March that covered up to 148.9±14.16-unit areas while the least was observed during November (1.19 ±0.43) unit area. On average 25% of absconding was observed at study site over the last two years of the study period at the time of pollen and nectar shortage mainly November and May. Therefore, it is recommended to investigate its detail behavioral aspects whether it is due to environmental or genetically factor for future selection and improvement


I greatly acknowledge South Agricultural Research Institute, Hadassah Agricultural Research Centre for the material, logistics and financial support


  1. Al-Ghamdi AA, Tadesse NAD,Getachew A,  Al-Maktary AA. Comparative study on the dynamics and performances of Apis mellifera jemenitica and imported hybrid honeybee colonies in southwestern Saudi Arabia, Saudi J of Bio Sci, 2017; 24: 1086-1093.
  2.  Amssalu B. Multivariate Morphometric Analysis and Behaviour of honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) in the Southern Regions of Ethiopia. PhD Thesis, Rhodes University, South Africa. 2002: 109-214.
  3.  Delaplane KS, Van der steen J, Guzman E. Standard methods for estimating strength parameters of Apis mellifera colonies. In V Dietemann; J D Ellis; P Neumann (Eds) The COLOSS BEEBOOK, Volume I: standard methods for Apis mellifera research. J of Apicultural Res. 2013; 52: 1.
  4.  Fewell JH, Page Jr. RE. Colony-level selection effects on individual and colony foraging task performance in honeybees, Apis mellifera L. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 2000; 48: 173-181.
  5.  Gary. Bee My Valentine. Honey bee hobbyist: The care and keeping of bees (Hobby Farm). 2010: 177.
  6.  Vzreja GA. ?ebeljih matic (Apis mellifera carnica). Žirovnica – ?ebelarska zveza Zgornje Gorenjske. 2005; 48.
  7.  Gregorc A, Lokar V. Selection criteria in an apiary of carniolan honey bee (Apis mellifera Carnica) colonies for queen rearing. J of Central European Agri. 2010; 11: 401-408.
  8.  Hatjina, F, Costa C,  Büchler R, Uzunov A, Drazic M,  Filipi J.  Population dynamics of European honey bee genotypes under different environmental conditions Population dynamics of European honey bee genotypes under different environmental conditions. Advances in Bioscience and Bioengineering.  2020; 8: 42-46
  9.  Rakesh K, Pramod M.  Important traits for the selection of honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies. Jof Entomology and Zoology Studies 2018; 6: 906-909
  10.  Schneider S.S. Nest characteristics and recruitment behavior of absconding colonies of the African honeybee, Apis mellifera scutellata, in Africa.” J of Insect Behaviour, 1990; 3: 225-240
  11.  Tadele A, Gemechis L, Zewdu A.  Performance Evaluation of Honeybee (Apis mellifera scutellata) in Guji Zone Gary. Int J of Innovation and Applied Studies 2014; 9: 1987-1993
  12.  Mossie T, Kasabiratu. Performance Evaluation of Local Honey Bee Races Under in- Situ and Ex-Situ Agro-Ecological Zones of Ethiopia, Academic J of Entomology. 2019; 12: 09-13.