China is the largest producer and exporter of royal jelly (RJ) in the world, supplying 90% of the global market. The high production of RJ in China is principally owing to the high RJ-producing lineage of honeybees (Apis mellifera ligustica Spinola, 1806) established by beekeepers in the 1980s.
We describe the development of high royal jelly-producing honeybees and the management of this lineage today. Previous research and recent advances in the genetic characterization of this lineage, and the molecular markers and mechanisms associated with high RJ production are summarized. The gaps in our knowledge and prospects for future research are also highlighted.