All bees belong to the superfamily Apoidea . The total number of living species in this group has been estimated to be of the order of 20 000 divided into genera of 10 or possibly 11 families. Honey bees belong to the family Apidae. The subfamily Apinae comprises the two highly social group of bees, the meliponines and Apis. The genus Apis is the sole modern representative of the tribe Apini.
The genus Apis comprises four species of true honey bees i.e. those which store considerable quantities of honey. These species are Apis dorsata, the giant honey bee, Apis florea, the little honey bee, Apis indica, the Eastern honey bee, and Apis mellifera L., the Western honey bee . The first three of these occur wild in southern Asia and not elsewhere. Apis mellifera L. is believed to have originated in the African tropics or subtropics about the end of the Tertiary, migrating to the colder climates of Europe prior to its association with man. It has been introduced to almost every country in the world from Europe.
A variety of this honey bee, Apis mellifera unicolor, occurs in Africa. There are numerous European strains which are only races, differing in minor characters, mainly colouration (e.g. a northwestern "black" race (Apis mellifera mellifera), a southwestern "grey" race (Apis mellifera carnica), and an Italian "yellow" race (Apis mellifera ligustica). Only Apis mellifera L. and Apis indica can be kept in hives. All testing was done with Apis mellifera L. since this is the species used for commercial honey production in Australia.