When/where should honeybees be marked as wild/non-wild?

Diana, I didn’t say anything about managing bees for honey. Where I live, the bees need all their stores. I just love to have a beehive, and the organic farmer where my hive is located profits from the pollination. I say, this hive is wild. I have not even met the queen!

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If someone can give me a resource for where honey bees can be assumed to be captive, I’d be happy to start working through them.

I think there have been previous discussions about honeybees, and the general consensus was that if a human tended hive is visible or there is text indicating they are from a human-tended hive, it’s reasonable to mark them captive. However, while there’s a reasonable chance that many honeybees observed in the US are from human-tended hives, there isn’t any way to tell for sure in a given observation, and it would probably be counterproductive to try to mark all honeybees in the US as captive for example.

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Depends on the area. In some colder regions, honey bees are better assumed to be captive until proven otherwise. I’m just not exactly sure where those areas are.

I’m unclear how someone could assert that

but not have specific information about it. It seems like a statement that needs to be backed up by evidence. I took a quick look and the first paper I looked at shows wild honey bee colonies have been found to at least 56-57 degrees latitude in :

Other sources show that the native range of Apis mellifera in Europe extends to around 62 degrees N:

This would encompass >99.99% of observations on iNaturalist and all but a handful in North America. Even that figure (about 62 degrees) is based on their presumed natural range in Europe - colonies may have escaped cultivation in habitable areas at latitudes farther north.

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Note, I moved the above topics for 3/28/24 from https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/cats-wild-versus-domestic/49891 to help keep that thread on topic.

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Perhaps, but I think there are so many other things one could do that could add real value to iNaturalist. Anyone studying honey bees should know there’s a chance the bee in the observation might be “not wild”. I’d focus my time adding identifications or annotations rather than trying to determine which honey bees might be wild or not.


I had a season when I stopped counting swarms at 10. I thought my beekeeping days were over. I concluded I didn’t really know how many swarms had occurred (and yet it was a good year for honey production). The same lhappens with many friends who are beekeepers. So I can’t say for certain which bees are captive and which come from my neighbors and which are not being kept by beekeepers. I agree that they should not be marked as captive or otherwise. If someone insisted, I’d ask them to prove it and that won’t happen.

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This is very true for my area. I can be more or less sure that a bee is domestic if I see it close to a hive or feeding on Brassica napus, but otherwise we have many bees that are either escapees living in tree hollows or local variety Apis mellifera mellifera which mainly lives in hollows and only rarely is found in hives as pure
variety, because mostly introduced Apis mellifera carnica are kept. They are impossible to distinguish from a photo, besides, hybrids between the varieties exist…

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The swarm I came upon today should definitely be marked as wild, although it may have absconded from a domesticated hive. Per iNat definitions, escaped domestic animals are in a place where humans did not intend for them to be, and count as wild.

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