This genus of insects contains five known species. All usually have a single egg-laying queen. They live in common colonies of 2,500 to 70,000 individuals. Most of which are sterile females. They have no really close relatives, though the Bumblebee is probably somewhat related. Also there are the stingless bees of the subfamily Meliponini and have two genera, Melipona and Trigona.

As far as I know the name of the genus comes from the old myth (Spread by Aristotle) that bees were spontaneously generated from the bodies of dead bulls.

Apis Cerana, the Asian Honey Bee is also sometimes called Apis Indica or the Indian Honey Bee. It is found from Iran eastward in Asia. It is smaller and produces much less honey per hive then the European Honey Bee and so cultivation is dying out.

Apis Dorsata, is often called the Giant Honey Bee, as is Apis Laboriosa. They are very similar, but Dorsata are found from Iran to the Phillipies in warm areas. They build a single comb, often on the underside of a large tree branch or overhanging cliff. Laboriosa is only found in the Himalayas from 4,000 to 11,000 feet of elevation and is slightly larger. Both have relatively small productions of honey and are not kept in human built hives. Both are said to have very painful stings.

Apis Florea, is the smallest of the Apis species. It also builds a single exposed comb. It's honey is somewhat sought after in Asian countries because if its rarity, but most studies show there is no difference between it and the honey of other species. Currently it is spreading its range into Africa and the Middle East from its Asian range.

Apis Mellifera is the European Honey Bee. It is the most common species and also the most commonly cultivated by man.

Apis – Egyptian sacred bull
"The Apis ought ever to be regarded by us, as a fair and beautiful image of the soul of Osiris"
Roman historian Plutarch

Apis (or Hapi) was the sacred bull of the ancient Egyptians. They regarded Apis as the incarnation of their Gods Osiris and Ptah. Apis had a special place in the temple of Ptah at Memphis. There, the bull functioned as an oracle, phrasing Ptah’s wisdom. It was believed that when Apis died, a new Apis appeared and had to be searched for: he would be recognisable by certain sacred marks on his body, such as his black colour and a knot under his tongue. Apis was sometimes represented as a man with the head of a bull.

Where Osiris represented the spiritual nature of the lower world, Apis was the emblem of the material world. The Apis bull also symbolised the sacrilegious doctrine, in contradistinction to the divine teachings represented by the Uraeus worn upon the foreheads of the priests. The sacred bull also stood for youth and endless life. At each New Year, a bull was ritually slaughtered after which its flesh was eaten by the king. This was supposed to transfer the animal’s huge powers to the king, which earned him eternal life.


According to the tradition recorded by Apollodorus, Apis was the son of Phoroneus and the grandson of Inachus. His mother was the Nymph Teledice. From his father he inherited power over the whole Peloponnese, which was called Apia after him. But he acted like a tyrant and was killed, according to some by Aetolus, the hero who gave his name to Aetolia, according to others by Thelxion and Telchis. He was subsequently deified and worshipped under the name of Sarapis. His death was avenged by Argos. According to Aeschylus, Apis was a physician with the gift of prophecy, a son of Apollo who had come from Naupactus to purify the Peloponnese.

In another version of the legend, recorded by Pausanias, Apis is said to be the son of Telchis of Sicyon and father of Thelxion (Table 22).


Table of Sources:
- Apollod. Bibl. 1, 7, 6; 2, 1, 1ff.
- Tzetzes on Lyc. Alex. 177
- Steph. Byz. s.v. 'Απια
- schol. on Hom. Il. 1, 22; 13, 218
- schol. on Apoll. Rhod. Arg. 4, 263
- Paus. 2, 5, 7
- Arnobius, Adv. Nat. 1, 36

A"pis (#), n. [L., bee.] Zool.

A genus of insects of the order Hymenoptera, including the common honeybee (Apis mellifica) and other related species. See Honeybee.


© Webster 1913.

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