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Apis mellifera - the Meaning

A well known mistake

The honey bees that are kept by beekeepers are known as both the "Western Honey Bee" or "European Honey Bee". They are indigenous to Europe, the Middle East and Africa and introduced elsewhere. The taxonomical name is Apis mellifera, which in itself has provided us with a well publicised story, the accuracy of which I am unsure.

The Swedish botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus (also known as Carolus Linnaeus, Carolus Linné and Carl von Linné) introduced the system of nomenclature, which makes identification easy. Linnaeus gave the honey bee the name Apis mellifera in 1758 and it appears in his book "Systema Naturae" (10th edition). "Apis" is the Latin word for "bee", "mellifera" comes from the Greek "melli", honey, and "ferre", to bear - hence, the scientific name means the honey-bearing bee.

Three years later in 1761 Linnaeus realised his earlier mistake that honey bees bear nectar not honey, so he attempted to change the name to Apis mellifica - the honey-making bee. However, according to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, the older name has precedence (the Principle of Priority, first formulated in 1842), so we continue to use the name Apis mellifera.

The above has come from a number of sources.

Roger Patterson.