Japanese Honey Bees

Japanese honey bees are part of the European honey bee genus, which lives primarily in Japan. Locals call this type of bee the “mountain honey bee,” due to its preference of foraging for nectar and pollen within natural fields.

Unlike Western bees, Japanese honey bees do not require constant maintenance. If they swarm into a box and leave the nest after producing honey, a new swarm of Japanese honey bees will populate the hive once it becomes vacant. In addition, while Western honey bees build their nests within their honey stores, Japanese honey bees produce honey but do not live inside their hives.

Like many other honey bees, Japanese honey bee workers are females and cannot produce fertilized eggs. They are responsible for different jobs at different ages. A young worker usually tends to the queen and larvae, while mature workers forage and collect food outdoors. Males, also known as drones, rarely go outside their nest except to attend mating flights. The only responsibility of male Japanese honey bees is to mate with the queen. Each colony of Japanese honey bees includes only one egg-laying queen, whose primary responsibility is ovulation of eggs throughout her life span. The Japanese honey bee queen controls her workers by secreting pheromones.

Western and Japanese honey bees have many similar physical characteristics. However, a Japanese honey bee can be identified by the distinct lines drawn on the rear wings and sometimes by the colors of their abdomens. Western honey bees are characterized by having a yellow thorax, though the Japanese honey bee can also have a yellow thorax during warmer weather.

Japanese honey bees are particularly susceptible to environmental changes, and, as a result, this species is becoming endangered. Many Japanese honey bees are migrating from their original habitat in the mountains to cities around Japan. Because bees are considered dangerous in urban areas, these Japanese honey bees are considered pests and are often exterminated.