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Giant honeybee

Scientific Name
Apis dorsata
Scientific Author
(Hymenoptera: Apidae)

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  • South and South-East Asia


  • Occurs from Pakistan in the west, through the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka to Indonesia and parts of the Philippines in the east. Its north-south distribution ranges from the southern part of China to Indonesia.

    The giant honeybees are found predominantly in or near forests, although at times nests may be observed in towns near forest areas. The bee shares the openair, single-comb nesting habits of Apis florea, suspending its nest from the under surface of its support, such as a tree limb or cliff. In general, A. dorsata tends to nest high in the air, usually from 3 to 25 metres above the ground. In tropical forests in Thailand, many nests are suspended in Dipterocarpus trees from 12 to 25 metres high.  This tree is probably preferred as a relatively safe nesting site because its smooth bark and lack of low branches (the trunk rises 4 to 5 metres before branching) make it very difficult for terrestrial predators to reach the nest. Nonetheless, about three-quarters of the worker population of a colony of giant honeybees is engaged in colony defence, forming a protective curtain three to four trees thick in the same way as Apis florea. While birds are common predators of A. dorsata, the workers' large body size protects them reasonably well against ant invasion, so that the sticky bands of propolis characterizing the nests of the dwarf honeybee are not found surrounding the nests of A. dorsata, nor are the nests hidden by dense foliage. Nests of A. dorsata may occur singly or in groups and it is not uncommon to find 10-20 nests in a single tall tree, known locally as a "bee tree". In India and Thailand, trees harbouring more than 100 nests are occasionally seen in or near the tropical forest.


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