Free Access
Volume 26, Number 3, 1995
Non-Apis bees
Page(s) 231 - 244
Apidologie 26 (1995) 231-244
DOI: 10.1051/apido:19950305

Virgin queens in stingless bee (Apidae, Meliponinae) colonies: a review

V.L. Imperatriz-Fonsecaa and R. Zucchib

a  Departamento de Ecologia Geral, IBUSP, CP 11461, CEP 05422-970 São Paulo, SP, Brazil
b  Setor de Ecologia da Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras da USP, CEP 14 300-000 Ribeirâo Preto, SP, Brazil

Abstract - There are no differences between Trigonini and Meliponini in terms of their treatment of virgin queens. They may stay in the nest, leave during swarm, supersede the dominant queen, or be killed, depending on what happens inside the colony. However, some kinds of behavior and strategies are characteristic of each species and part of its repertoire; examples are the onset of attractiveness, type of isolation, maturity, and the permanence of gynes in the colonies. Behavioral patterns are similar to all gynes. Attractive gynes have swollen abdomens, and abdominal glands are exposed during periods of attractiveness; they are very active, they run through the colony and search for trophallaxis. Natural polygyny occurs in Melipona bicolor, but needs additional studies to be well understood. Temporary oligogyny occurs during supersedure process in Plebeia. The control of the number of virgin queens during certain periods of time is suggested in Trigona (Trigona), acting on the gynes' emergence from royal cells or simultaneous metamorphosis of pupae. The presence of gynes in the nests stimulates swarm or supersedure. In these bees, one or more virgin queens depart with a swarm; fertilization occurs in a nuptial flight near the new nest. Swarm is a gradual process, with resource transportation from mother to daughter colonies. Supersedure may or may not be gradual. Attractive gynes, as well as workers, take active part in this process.

Key words: Meliponinae / stingless bees / gyne / queen supersedure / swarm