Free access
Volume 37, Number 2, March-April 2006
Stingless bees: biology and management
Page(s) 293 - 315
Published online 22 June 2006
Apidologie 37 (2006) 293-315
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2006022

Stingless bees in applied pollination: practice and perspectives

Ester Judith Slaaa, b, Luis Alejandro Sánchez Chavesb, Katia Sampaio Malagodi-Bragac and Frouke Elisabeth Hofsteded

a  Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology and Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT Leeds, UK
b  Centro de Investigaciones Apícolas Tropicales, Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica, Apartado postal 475-3000 Heredia, Costa Rica
c  Laboratório de Abelhas, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São Paulo, Rua do Matão, Travessa 14, n.321 CEP 05508-900 São Paulo, Brazil
d  Tropical Bee Research Unit, Behavioural Biology Department, Utrecht University, PO Box 80.086, 3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands

(Received 17 October 2005 - revised 27 February 2006 - accepted 28 February 2006 - published online 22 June 2006)

Abstract - At present, numbers of both wild and managed bee colonies are declining rapidly, causing global concern for pollination services. Stingless bees play an important ecological role as pollinators of many wild plant species and seem good candidates for future alternatives in commercial pollination. This paper reviews the effectiveness of stingless bees as crop pollinators. Over the past six years the number of crops reported to be effectively pollinated by stingless bees has doubled, putting the total figure on 18 crops. Eleven stingless bee species across six genera have been found to forage effectively under enclosed conditions, indicating the potential of stingless bees as pollinators of greenhouse crops. The biological features that make stingless bees strong candidates for commercial pollination services are discussed, together with their present limitations. The effects of natural vegetation and wild bees on crop yield are reviewed, and make a strong case for habitat conservation.

Key words: agriculture / alternative pollinators / food crop / greenhouse / Meliponini

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2006