Common Name: Dwarf Bee 

Scientific Name: Trigona minima

Kingdom:  Animilia
Phylum: Arthopoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Genus: Trigona
Species: T. minima

 

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Did you know that Trigona minima is the smallest bee in the world?  This bee isn’t even a centimeter!  That’s tiny!  But don’t look for it on this continent. This amazing bee can be found in many Neotropical regions and has adapted some special ways of surviving hungry prey.  Trigona minima truly is an amazing little insect and even though it’s small, its importance can be felt in the areas where it lives.

Trigona minima is very tiny and the workers reach only about 2.1 millimeters. That’s less than one-eighth of an inch on a ruler.  This bee can easily be identified by its dark color and small size for those who know what they are looking for. It has a black thorax and head, brown abdomen, and gold wings.  Another important feature of this bee is that it’s stingless.

Trigona minima has much more of a challenging climate to deal with than most bees, but it has adapted well. It can be found in places such as Boliva, Suriname, Peru, Brazil and the Amazon.  Because this bee is so little and can be overlooked very easily, scientists have not be able to determine its full range.  They believe it has a plentiful population and seems to thrive on the plush vegetation these regions offer to it.

Like other bees, Trigona minima drinks the nectar made by plants and then makes honey with it.  It uses is proboscis to mix its saliva and nectar together to produce the honey.  Although this bee only drinks nectar, there are plenty of living things that want to eat it.  Spiders, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and other insects prey on Trigona minima.  Even though it does not sting to defend itself, it can bite the predator and if it’s lucky, it might just get away.  Another thing it can do to protect itself and its nest is to deposit a sticky resin at the mouth of the nest, making it hard for predators to enter. 

This bee may be tiny, but its job in the tropics is very important.  It provides honey, is food for many other animals and spends it’s time pollinating the lush vegetation it lives in!  If anything were to happen to decrease the numbers of this bee, the rain forests and tropics would surely feel the negative impact.  It’s amazing that such a small bug can be so important! 

Author: Stephanie B.

Published: February 16, 2012

Sources: Book : Lenko, K. and Papavero, N. (1996). Insectos no folklore. Sao Paulo Plediade, FAPESP; Dictionary : Ihering, R. (2002) Dicionario dos animales do Brasil.; Michener, C.D. (1954)Bees of Pauama

Photo Credit: Karen LeMay