Bees

What are they?

As major pollinators of flowering plants, bees are integral to natural and urban ecosystems, as well as the production of food crops. Unfortunately, bees also have the misplaced reputation of being aggressive and dangerous stinging insects. In fact, most bees in Singapore are docile and pose little to no safety risk.

The three main groups of bees you might encounter in Singapore are:

  • Honey bees
  • Solitary bees
  • Stingless bees

1. The Honey Bees

These bees live in large colonies and produce honey. They are also the only bees that may sting people, but only do so when their hives are disturbed or threatened. While all bee stinging incidents in Singapore are indeed due to honey bees, they will generally only sting when defending their hives. They are docile and safe when foraging at flowers away from their nests. Moreover, they constitute the minority of bee species in Singapore!

Below are the four species of honey bee (genus Apis) found in Singapore:

Asian Honey Bee
(Apis cerana)

  

  • The most common bee in Singapore, the Asian Honey Bee can be found in urban parks and even roof-top gardens.
  • Their hives are often constructed within sheltered spaces, usually a tree hole but in urban areas, these bees might also use upturned pots and the eaves of roofs. They may sometimes attempt to enter buildings or manmade objects to find nesting sites too.
  • An active hive is covered with live bees (photo above). The hive’s structure consists of multiple wax combs arranged parallel to one another.

 

Giant Honey Bee
(Apis dorsata)

  

  • Locally also referred to as the “Malayan Honey Bee”, this bee is often found in forests or densely planted parks, but may stray into urban areas.
  • Giant Honey Bees forage actively after dusk and are often attracted to artificial light sources.
  • Their hives are a single large comb, usually around 1 metre across, and usually formed underneath a sloping branch of a tall tree.

Red Dwarf Honey Bee
(Apis florea)

Black Dwarf Honey Bee
(Apis andreniformis)

  • These bees are fairly common in parks and gardens.
  • Naturally nomadic, they will often abandon their hive to find a new nesting site within three to six months.
  • Both species construct a single, small comb (usually around 30 cm across) that hangs from a thin branch of a shrub or tree.


2.  Solitary Bees

The vast majority of bee species in Singapore lead a solitary lifestyle, living singly or in small groups rather than in large colonies. These species therefore do not construct hives like honey bees do. Solitary bees are peaceful and docile, and come in a diverse range of colours, shapes and sizes.

Here are a few examples of species found in Singapore:

Pearly-banded Bees
(Nomia spp.)

Leaf-cutter Bees
(Megachile spp.)

Digger Bees
(Amegilla spp.)

 Large Carpenter Bees
(Xylocopa spp.)

 


3.  Stingless Bees

Stingless bees are tiny – no bigger than a pinhead – but are important pollinators of forest trees. Like honey bees, stingless bees live in large colonies and produce edible honey. However, they do not possess stings and are harmless to people.

Occasionally stingless bees may form a mating cloud outside of their nest entrance. This often alarms people, but is in fact a natural and harmless event. Swarming occurs irregularly, and generally lasts a few hours. 

Stingless Bees 
(Tetragonula spp.)

  • Stingless bees nest within crevices in trees and rocky walls, but also in manmade structures in parks such as lamp posts.
  • The entrance is typically coated with plant resin. Stingless bees will often be seen guarding the entrance from intruders. The entrance is often the size of a 50-cent coin or smaller.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What should you do if you see a bee hive in a park?

  • Keep your distance and refrain from disturbing the hive
  • Notify NParks at 1800-471-7300

What should you do if you have been stung by a bee?

  • Scrape stinger out using the edge of a card. Do not pull out the stinger with your fingers as you may accidentally squeeze and release more venom into your skin.
  • Wash wound with soap and water.
  • Apply ice packs if swelling occurs.
  • Monitor for allergic reactions, e.g. rashes, swelling, breathlessness.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if allergic reactions occur

What should you do if you are swarmed by bees?

  • Cover your head and move as far as possible from the hive, being careful to avoid tripping
  • Run toward shelter as this disorients chasing bees
    • Do not swat at the bees – this will cause them to become more aggressive
    • Do not jump into water – agitated bees may continue to attack after you emerge

What should you do if a bee lands on you?


Honey bees frequently land on people to drink their sweat.

  • Refrain from smacking the bee! Injuring it may cause it to sting or release alarm pheromones that would attract more aggressive bees.
  • Calmly move the part of your body that the bee is resting on. If the bee still does not move, gently brush it off – it will fly away peacefully.

Why do I find honey bees coming into my home?

  • Honey bees that forage in the late evening are often drawn to urban light sources. Installing thick curtains or an insect screen on your windows will usually reduce the likelihood of this occurring

 

Photos credits: Zestin Soh

Last updated on 13 September 2018

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