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Apis dorsata


Giant honey bee
Close-up of workers on comb
Apis dorsata, the Giant honey bee, is a honey bee of southern and southeastern Asia mainly in forested areas. The subspecies with the largest individuals is the Himalayan cliff honey bee - Apis dorsata laboriosa - but typical Apis dorsata workers from other subspecies are around 17-20 mm long (nearly one inch).
Close-up of workers on comb

Apis dorsata seasonal colony aggregation in Srirangapatnna nearBangaloreIndia

Nests are mainly built in exposed places far off the ground, on tree limbs and under cliff overhangs, and sometimes on buildings.Apis dorsata is an aggressive bee and has never been domesticated (as they do not use enclosed cavities for nesting). They can be extremely dangerous if the colony is provoked. Each colony consists of a single vertical comb (sometimes approaching a square metre) suspended from above, and the comb is typically covered by a dense mass of bees in several layers. When disturbed, the workers may exhibit a defensive behavior known as defense waving. Bees in the outer layer thrust their abdomens ninety degrees in an upward direction and shake them in a synchronous way. This may be accompanied by stroking of the wings. The signal is transmitted to nearby workers that also adopt the posture, thus creating a visible (and audible) "ripple" effect across the face of the comb, in an almost identical manner to an audience wave at a crowded stadium.

These bees are tropical and in most places they migrate seasonally. Some recent evidence indicates that the bees return to the same nest site, even though most, if not all, the original workers might be replaced in the process. The mechanism of memory retention remains a mystery.

Despite its aggressive nature, indigenous peoples have traditionally used this species as a source of honey and beeswax, a practice known as honey hunting.