Apis florea

Common name(s): Dwarf honeybee, little honeybee

This species is quite widely distributed across the Middle East, India, parts of China, Vietnan, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and the northern part of Peninsula Malaysia. It is not found in more southerly regions in Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia, and thus its presence in Singapore is rather surprising.

This species is distinctly smaller and more slender in shape than the common honeybee. It is somewhat similar to Apis andreniformis in appearance but has a distinctly reddish abdomen, and has light whitish hairs covering its thorax and legs, while the same hairs on Apis andreniformis are dark.

Prior to 2013, true Apis florea has never been recorded in Singapore. I have never encountered them anywhere even after years of active fieldwork. In 2013, Dr. John Ascher, who joined the National University of Singapore (NUS) as an assistant professor that year, collected a single specimen in the West Coast area. In 2014, Dr Ascher, students from NUS and myself separately found individuals at various locations in the West. A student from NUS also found a nest which was destroyed by pest control personnel in the Kent Ridge area. Since Singapore should, by rights, be out of the usual distribution range of this species, I wonder if it has been accidentally introduced to Singapore. Till today, it remains uncommon and mainly found in the Western part of Singapore; Apis andreniformis is far more common. Most earlier records of Apis florea in Singapore are actually of Apis andreniformis.

The nest is similar to that of Apis andreniformis, but there are structural differences in the way the cells are attached to the branch the nest is built on. I have yet to see a nest of this species myself.

The photo below shows Apis florea with Apis cerana, the common Asian honeybee.

Apis florea is said to be even less defensive than Apis andreniformis, which is already fairly unaggressive in my experience, and lacks the "trembling" or "tremoring" defense response. Their stings are short and cannot easily penetrate the average adult's skin (except for softer parts such as the underside of the forearm or the neck). They, too, leave their sting in the wound as common honeybees do, and so only sting once. They are not generally considered dangerous and would not pose a threat to people in general, especially in Singapore.

References/Further reading: Benjamin P. Oldroyd and Siriwat Wongsiri, 2006. Asian Honey Bees. Harvard University Press

Back to main social bee section
Return to where you arrived here from