Free access
Volume 40, Number 4, July-August 2009
Page(s) 472 - 480
Published online 28 March 2009
Apidologie 40 (2009) 472-480
DOI: 10.1051/apido/2009007

Long distance foraging and recruitment by a stingless bee, Melipona mandacaia

Brunno Kuhn-Neto1, Felipe A.L. Contrera2, 3, Marina S. Castro1, 4 and James C. Nieh2

1  Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, Departamento de Ciências Biológicas, Feira de Santana, Bahia, Brazil
2  University of California San Diego, Division of Biological Sciences, Section of Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, La Jolla, California, USA
3  Current address: Universidade Federal do Pará, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Belém, PA, Brazil
4  Empresa Baiana de Desenvolvimento Agrícola, Laboratório de Abelhas, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Received 24 October 2008 – Revised 13 December 2008 – Accepted 16 December 2008 - Published online 8 August 2009

Abstract - Body size is hypothesized to play a major role in animal foraging, particularly in pollinators. In general, species with larger bodies forage over greater distances. Studies have found support for this body size-foraging range hypothesis across a wide variety of pollinator species, but have not investigated the possibility that this effect also applies within a pollinator species. We trained foragers of the stingless bee Melipona mandacaia to feeders in their native habitat under natural conditions, and found that larger foragers forage at and recruit to significantly greater distances than smaller foragers. The maximum foraging and recruitment distances are significantly greater (by 24% and 48% respectively) for larger as compared to smaller foragers. We also provide the first direct evidence that stingless bees can forage in their native habitat at distances up to 2.1 km and recruit over 1 km from their nest, recruiting more than 230% farther than previously reported for any stingless bee feeder experiments. Natural size variation among colonies within the same species may play a role in foraging range, and could thus influence plant gene flow and population structure.

Key words: stingless bees / foraging range / body size / recruitment / size variation

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2009