A new discovery of endemic honey bee species in the Western Ghats of Kerala after 200 years, can open doors for producing a large quantity of good quality honey. The new species is being given the scientific name of Apis karinjodian and Indian Black Honeybee, as a common name.
The last honeybee discovered in India, named Apis Indica was found in the year 1798 by Fabricius. After the latest discovery, which was published in “Entomon” journal, the species of honey bees in the world has increased to 11.
This research was carried out by Assistant Professor - Shanas S. from Kerala Agricultural University’s Integrated Farming Systems Research Station (IFRS), Karamana, Ph.D. research scholar – Anju Krishnan G from Zoology Department of SN college, Cherthala, & Mashhoor K. from the EMEA College of Arts and Science, Malappuram.
But, Apis Indica was not considered, a valid species until now, this research team restored its status with the help of a new measure used for honeybee species discrimination called Radio-Medial Index(RMI). Interestingly, while proving the distinguishable identity of Apis Indica, it also led to the discovery of the new species Apis Karinjodian.
They obtained photographs in high resolution of the type specimen from the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. Molecular analysis was also executed using mitochondrial DNA, where the obtained sequence was checked with the public open database NCBI-GenBank, further confirming the status of new honeybee species. The whole research work took a span of more than three years.
A detailed study has revealed that the new species Apis karinjodian evolved from morphotypes of Apis cerana, after getting acclimatized to Western Ghats hot & humid environment. Its distribution ranges from Central Western Ghats and Nilgiris to the southern Western Ghats, covering the states of Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka.
The current research can be a breakthrough in the apiculture industry of India, by confirming that the country comprises three cavity-nesting honey bee species i.e. Apis cerana, Apis indica, & Apis karinjodian.
New species called Indian Black Honey Bee is because of its visibly dark appearance. They could change the whole dynamics of honey production, as it produces a significantly higher amount of honey with a thicker consistency.
Most beekeepers & honey suppliers, faced issues related to the quality of honey when compared to International quality standards, specifically concerning moisture content that has to be below 18%. However, with the latest honeybee in light, this issue can be easily curbed due to the thicker consistency of honey it produces.
Although, special care to protect these species is required, as it has been categorised as Near Threatened (NT) in Kerala based on IUCN Red List Criteria and Categories.