The inch-long giant honeybee, Apis dorsata (pictured above), builds combs that can exceed a metre. This aggressive species nests high in trees, and so is rarely encountered by humans. Its honey, however, is highly sought after and collected by local communities in many parts of Asia, who use smoke or fire to deflect the hive’s defenders.
Common even in residential areas, the dwarf honeybee (Apis andreniformis, pictured on the right) is relatively less aggressive than other bees and is not well studied.
Wild they may be, these bees may offer hope for people who love honey. For European honeybees are currently suffering from a severe disease called Colony Collapse Disorder, which threatens the welfare of beekeepers as well as the producers of many crops that rely on the bees to pollinate their flowers. The genetic diversity that exists in wild honeybees and allows them to resist infections fatal to domestic counterparts could prove vital in helping to ensure the survival of honeybees and their prized combs.
Xylocopa latipes, one of the world's largest bees.
Big but not bad: Carpenter bees of Singapore
Gentle giants that rarely sting, and with much less pain than a honeybee, these robust insects use their jaws to construct nesting burrows in wood, hence the name, carpenter bees. Three species occur in Singapore: the humongous Xylocopa latipes (possibly the world’s largest bee), Xylocopa confusa, which has black females and hairy, gold males, and Xylocopa caerulea with its brilliant blue thorax.