In order to understand any living organism we must look and see “who” this critter really is. The term taxonomy refers to the scientific study of classification. 18th century, Swedish
naturalist, Carolus Linnaeus developed the classification system binomial nomenclature which is still practiced universally today. His taxonomic system uses two names to identify every organism, genus and species. For example, humans are known as Homo sapiens where Homo is our genus and sapiens is our species.
The honeybee is scientifically classified as Apis mellifera. The root of the word Apis is related to social insects or bees and mellifera is associated with a flower type yielding copious amounts of nectar (i.e. the beginning of honey). Let’s explore the taxonomy of the honeybee a bit more.
- Kingdom - Animalia (Metazoa) Honeybees are animals!
- Phylum - Arthropoda These animals have exoskeletons and jointed legs. (Arthropod means “jointed leg.”)
- Class - Insecta Honeybees are insects. They have jointed legs, compound eyes, antennae, exoskeletons, and three-part bodies.
- Order - Hymenoptera, translating to mean “membraned wings.” This order includes bees, ants, wasps, and sawflies (honeybees being the most fabulous of course).
- Family - Apidae, Latin meaning “bee” (go figure).
- Genus - Apis, also referring to “bee” (go figure again).
- Species – Mellifera, relating to honey production.
So, by looking at the honeybee classification we now know that honeybees are animals with jointed legs, exoskeletons, segmented bodies, antennae, compound eyes, and a membrane-like set of wings. We also know that they are related to wasps and ants, they are social and associated with nectar and honey production. Isn’t taxonomy fantastic!