A total of 738 colonies from 64 localities along the African continent have been analysed using the DraI RFLP of the COI–COII mitochondrial region. Mitochondrial DNA of African honeybees appears to be composed of three highly divergent lineages. The African lineage previously reported (named A) is present in almost all the localities except those from north-eastern Africa. In this area, two newly described lineages (called O and Y), putatively originating from the Near East, are observed in high proportion. This suggests an important differentiation of Ethiopian and Egyptian honeybees from those of other African areas. The A lineage is also present in high proportion in populations from the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily. Furthermore, eight populations from Morocco, Guinea, Malawi and South Africa have been assayed with six microsatellite loci and compared to a set of eight additional populations from Europe and the Middle East. The African populations display higher genetic variability than European populations at all microsatellite loci studied thus far. This suggests that African populations have larger effective sizes than European ones. According to their microsatellite allele frequencies, the eight African populations cluster together, but are divided in two subgroups. These are the populations from Morocco and those from the other African countries. The populations from southern Europe show very low levels of ‘Africanization’ at nuclear microsatellite loci. Because nuclear and mitochondrial DNA often display discordant patterns of differentiation in the honeybee, the use of both kinds of markers is preferable when assessing the phylogeography of Apis mellifera and to determine the taxonomic status of the subspecies.