The little feral bees are back. They are the same size as last year, but they are slightly different in color now. The stripes have changed from the dark reddish black to grey. The body is a little less black and a little more silver. The conformation is identical. They are quite small. I'd say my "normal" bees look like 15mm long. These are 10mm long. But I've examined them quite extensively. One I have in a jar (from when they were still reddish brown) and one was on the sweet clover today just sitting there. I thought it was dead at first so I picked the flower off and looked closely. It is anatomically correct in every way from antenna to it's stinger. It must have been resting because it finally stirred itself and flew off. I'd swear it was taking a nap.
I would still doubt that it was a honey bee because of it's size, if a few hadn't drifted into my observation hive last year.
It would seem to me that they are 2/3 the length and 2/3 of the diameter of a "normal" bee. In cell size that would translate to:
"normal" bee cell size counting cell wall 5.4mm. Minus .06 cell wall=5.34 inside cell size. divided by 3= 1.78 * 2 = 3.56mm + .06 cell wall = 3.62mm cell size.
Could this be a different race of honey bee? It doesn't seem like it could be that small and be a honey bee and except for their perfect anatomy and them drifting into my hive I wouldn't believe they were.
I have seen similar little bees and have been scratching my head in puzzlement.