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Genetic structure of a giant honey bee (Apis dorsata) population in northern Thailand: implications for conservation


Ben Oldroyd, Behaviour and Genetics of Social Insects Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences A12, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. E-mail:


Abstract.  1. The giant honey bee, Apis dorsata, is a keystone pollinator. The species is heavily hunted throughout Thailand. Furthermore, forest clearing, widespread use of pesticides and proliferation of street lighting (which attracts bees, often resulting in their death) are likely to have significant impacts on population viability.

2. We examined the relatedness and genetic variation within and between aggregations of A. dorsata nests. Microsatellite analysis of 54 nests in three aggregations showed that no colonies were related as mother–daughter. Thus, if reproduction occurred at our study sites, daughter colonies dispersed. This suggests that rapid increases in A. dorsata colony numbers during general flowering events most likely occur by swarms arriving from other areas rather than by in situ reproduction.

3. The population has high levels of heterozygosity. Fst values between aggregations were not significantly different from zero (> 0.05). This suggests that despite the formidable anthropogenic pressures that the A. dorsata population endures in northern Thailand, the species continues to enjoy a large effective population size and has high connectedness.

4. We conclude that A. dorsata is currently able to tolerate habitat fragmentation and annual harvesting. We speculate that the population is sustained by immigration from forested regions to the northwest of our study sites in Burma.