Symposium: New Technologies for the Taxonomic Identification of Arthropods: Computer Assisted Identification of Hybrid Strains of Western Honey Bees

  • Thomas E. Rinderer


Standard, generally-agreed-upon principles of taxomony guide the naming of groups as species. Chief among these principles is that species-specific characteristics can exist because members of different species do not freely produce fertile hybrids. The history of the nomencalture of subspecies of Western honey bees exemplifies 3 additional taxonomic principles. First, subspecies-specific characteristics have not been found in honey bees. Second, subspecies are distinguishable as groups by the multivariate techniques of principal component analysis or discriminant analysis. Third, subspecies identifications are statistically based and hence probabilistic. These characteristics of subspecies identification are ideally suited to computer applications. Computer systems can be used to collect data and then used to apply complex statistical procedures to provide identifications. Such techniques have been used to analyze the honey-bee populations of the Americas. The honey bees in the Americas constitute populations resulting from subspecies hybridization. Populations of Africanized bees from South America are morphometrically quite distinct from populations of A. m. scutellata in South Africa. In every respect, the Africanized bees clearly show the genetical influence of their European parents. Additionally, F"1 progeny of Africanized and European honey bees provide further evidence of the hybrid nature of Africanized bees. It is clear that Africanized bees in the Americas constitute a "hybrid swarm". That is, they are "a continuous series of morphometrically distinct hybrids resulting from hybridization".
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