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Volume 32, Number 4, July-August 2001
Page(s) 341 - 353
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2001134

Apidologie 32 (2001) 341-353

Assessing stingless bee pollen diet by analysis of garbage pellets: a new method

Thomas Eltza, Carsten A. Brühla, Sander van der Kaarsb and K. Eduard Linsenmaira

a  Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, University of Würzburg, Biozentrum, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany
b  Department of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Clayton, VIC 3168, Australia

(Received 17 January 2001; accepted 3 April 2001)

Studies on pollen resources by stingless bees frequently suffer from low sample size due to difficulties concerning the acquisition of harvested pollen. Here we describe a funnel-trap that allows non-invasive and automated sampling of pollen-rich garbage pellets that are expelled from colonies by workers bees. Single garbage pellets of Trigona collina from Sabah, Malaysia, contained between 7 and 11 different morphotypes of pollen and the similarity of the pollen composition of pellets expelled by a given colony on a given day was very high (quantitative Steinhaus index: 71 to 90% ). The turn-over of pollen types in samples taken at consecutive points in time was relatively low over periods of three weeks (52 to 75% similarity) and variable over periods of four to six months (13.6 to 58.5% similarity). The comparison of pollen in corbicular loads and garbage pellets indicates that garbage pollen is derived from both feces of pollen-consuming workers and larval feces (meconia). The slow turn-over of pollen in garbage suggests that sampling at relatively long intervals (4-6 months) will be sufficient for a crude assessment of long-term pollen resources of stingless bee colonies.

Key words: pollen foraging / resource use / pollen trap / feces / fecal pellets

Correspondence and reprints: Thomas Eltz

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2001