Free access
Volume 37, Number 2, March-April 2006
Stingless bees: biology and management
Page(s) 240 - 258
Published online 22 June 2006
Apidologie 37 (2006) 240-258
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2006014

The structure of eusocial bee assemblages in Brazil

Jacobus C. Biesmeijer and E. Judith Slaa

Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

(Received 5 October 2005 - revised 29 December 2005 - accepted 17 January 2006 - published online 22 June 2006)

Abstract - Social bee - food plant relationships have been studied extensively, especially in the Neotropics. This is, however, the first quantitative comparison and review of a large set (28) of studies. Patterns in social bee richness, niche breadth and associations between social bee taxa could be explained partly by species-specific differences in behaviour, foraging traits and response to interspecific competition. Bee assemblages contain higher percentages of social Apidae towards the equator. Medium-sized non-aggressive group foragers had the narrowest diet and the super-generalists the broadest diet. Niche breadth generally decreased with the number of social bee species in the assemblage indicating that interspecific competition influences diet choice. Cluster-analysis revealed two main groups in terms of food plant use: medium-sized non-aggressive group foragers and a group containing the aggressive group forager Trigona spinipes, the honeybee and three small scramblers. Four other taxa were not associated with any other taxa.

Key words: community ecology / stingless bees / competition / niche partitioning / Meliponini / Apidae

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2006