Biodiversity Science ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (5): 476-485.doi: 10.17520/biods.2018036

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Biological characteristics, threat factors and conservation strategies for the giant honey bee Apis dorsata

Pei Yang1, Yanqiong Peng1, *(), Ronghua Zhao2, Darong Yang1   

  1. 1 Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303
    2 Yunnan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Kunming 650500
  • Received:2018-02-05 Accepted:2018-03-28 Online:2018-09-11
  • Peng Yanqiong
  • About author:

    # Co-first authors

Insect pollinators play a vital role in plant sexual reproduction. Pollinators facilitate cross-pollination that in turn promotes genetic diversity, mediates plant speciation, and contributes to ecosystem stability. However, the abundance, diversity and health of wild pollinators are threatened by human activities such as anthropogenic climate impacts, habitat destruction and environmental pollutants, and the impact of these human activities on ecosystems is likely to increase. Despite recognizing the importance of wild pollinators and the implementation of targeted conservation programs, the contemporary threats of wild insect pollinators remain poorly understood. For the giant honey bee (Apis dorsata), an important wild pollinator and honey producer in tropical rainforests and agricultural areas across Asia, here we describe nest characteristics, colony migration and pollination role and review threats to their conservation. We found that A. dorsata nests featured a single honeycomb hanging from the branches of large trees. The bees undertook long distance migrations to locate seasonally ephemeral forage sources but regularly returned to previous nesting sites. We identified several anthropogenic activities that posed significant threats to A. dorsata conservation: harvesting entire colonies, deforestation, pesticide and herbicide utilization, parastioids, mites, pathogens and climate change. Based on our study, we recommend several conservation initiatives to promote wild A. dorsata populations, which include artificial domestication, developing ecological agriculture, establishing of ecological corridors, inspection and quarantine controls on domesticated colonies, and sustainable utilization of the floral resources used by A. dorsata. We hope that this review will stimulate future research on giant honey bees whilst playing a significant role in their conservation and sustainable utilization.

Key words: Apis dorsata, wild insect pollinators, pollination services, threat factors, conservation

Fig. 1

The geographical distribution of Apis dorsata. The black dots show the distribution sites in references."

Fig. 2

Colony sites of Apis dorsata. A-B, Separate colonies aggregated on the branches of Bombax ceiba (A) and cliff (B); C, The colony under the eave; D, Multiple-layer curtain formed by A. dorsata workers."

Fig. 3

Apis dorsata visiting flowers of four tropical plants. A, Dombeya acutangula; B, Amomum villosum; C, Musa ornata; D, Homonoia riparia."

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