Monday, July 1, 2019

Apis Dorsata - The Giant Honey Bee

Class Insecta
Family Apidae
Genus Apis
Species Dorsata
Common Name Giant Honey Bee
Distribution in India Mainly Forests 

The sweet syrupy liquor known as eleixir of life on Earth is present in the stores all over the World. It is part of the kitchens were it is used as a condiment and an ingredient of various recipes. It is also used as medicine. I remember in our childhood bitter powdery concoctions were mixed with honey to make them palatable. 

The bees are social insects and one fact that everyone remembers often from childhood onwards is the painful sting. In forests workers, photographers, naturalists and tourists are susceptible to being stung by hordes of these insects which often requires hospitalizations.

In forests like Sunderban where honey is the most desired minor forest produce they are a reason for man animal conflict the tiger being the cause of many deaths and injuries. The nests or combs are built in difficult to reach locations high up in a tree usually on a horizontal branch hanging in any direction.

Hence honey does not come without a price. You will come across many tribal and villagers selling honey which can be from this species or another. There are actually three sub species of apis dorsata while some honey bearing hives may belong to another species or genus. There are nine honey bee species within this genus with similar morphological, physiological and behavioral traits.

Social Hierarchy is in form of  Queen who mates with the drones or males. The latter are produced by the Queen during the reproductive season and leave the comb after that and go on to enter another comb and mate with the Queen in there. The queen is polyandrous and mates with many drones. During the nuptial flight it may in company of drones fly to another spot to colonize it thus initiating the process of propagation. The workers constitute the third group and smaller in size but greater in numbers.

The life cycle consists of four stages namely:
  • Egg
  • Pupa
  • Larvae
  • Adult

The adult pierce the wax coated chambers to exit and the go on to perform their duties in the comb. The population splits into two when it grows large and established another colony. For this their should be enough food available in the vicinity.

It is not possible to colonize apis dorsata in man made hives as they are open nest species. They nevertheless are economically beneficial besides being excellent polinating agents. They are spread all over Southern Asia and extensively in India.
Uday works as a naturalist in India and loves to blog on wilderness.

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