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The dwarf honey bee (or red dwarf honey bee), Apis florea, is one of two species of small, wild honey bees of southern and southeastern Asia. It has a much wider distribution than its sister species, Apis andreniformis.
This species, together with A. andreniformis, is the most plesiomorphic honeybee species alive. Separating roughly about the Bartonian (some 40 Mya or slightly later) from the other lineages, they do not seem to have diverged from each other a long time before the Neogene.
These two species together comprise the subgenus Micrapis, and are the most primitive of the living species of Apis, reflected in their small colony size, and simple nest construction. The exposed single combs are built on branches of shrubs and small trees. The forager bees do not perform a gravity-oriented waggle dance on the vertical face of the comb to recruit nestmates as in the domesticated Apis mellifera and other species. Instead, they perform the dance on the horizontal upper surface where the comb wraps around the supporting branch. The dance is a straight run pointing directly to the source of pollen or nectar the forager has been visiting. In all other Apis species, the comb on which foragers dance is vertical, and the dance is not actually directed towards the food source.
Both the bees were generally identified as Apis florea, and most information still relates to this species prior to the 1990s. However, the distinctiveness of the two species A. florea and A. andreniformis was established unequivocally in the 1990s. A. florea is redder and the first abdomen is always red in an old worker (younger workers are paler in colour, as is the case in giant honey bees); A. andreniformis is in general darker and the first abdomen segment is totally black in old bees.
Aside from their small size, simple exposed nests, and simplified dance language, the lifecycle and behaviour of this species is fairly similar to other species of Apis. Workers of A. florea, like those of the species A. mellifera, also engage in worker policing, a process where nonqueen eggs are removed from the hive.
Queenless A. florea colonies have been observed to merge with nearby queen-right A. florea colonies, suggesting workers are attracted to queen bee pheromones.
The main parasites of both A. andreniformis and A. florea belong to the mite genus Euvarroa. However, A. andreniformis is attacked by the species Euvarroa wongsirii, while Euvarroa sinhai preys on A. florea and colonies of imported A. mellifera. The two species of Euvarroa have morphological and biological differences: while E. wongsirii has a triangular body shape and a length of 47–54 μm, E. sinhai has a more circular shape and a length of 39–40 μm.
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Maria C. Arias & Walter S. Sheppard (2005). "Corrigendum to "Phylogenetic relationships of honey bees (Hymenoptera:Apinae:Apini) inferred from nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequence data" [Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 37 (2005) 25–35]". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40 (1): 315. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.02.002.
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- Wongvilas, S., et al. "Interspecific and conspecific colony mergers in the dwarf honey bees Apis andreniformis and A. florea." Insectes Sociaux 57.3 (2010): 251-255.
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