Free Access
Volume 35, Number 1, January-February 2004
Page(s) 3 - 13
Apidologie 35 (2004) 3-13
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2003069

On the origin and properties of scent marks deposited at the food source by a stingless bee, Melipona seminigra

Michael Hrncira, Stefan Jaraua, Ronaldo Zucchib and Friedrich G. Bartha

a  University of Vienna, Biocenter, Institute of Zoology, Althanstr.14, 1090 Wien, Austria
b  University of São Paulo, FFCLRP, Department of Biology, Avenida Bandeirantes 3900, 14040-901 Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brasil

(Received 7 January 2003; revised 9 April 2003; accepted 11 June 2003)

Some species of stingless bees of the genus Melipona were reported to scent mark food sources but little is known about the chemical signals involved. We studied the origin and some properties of such scent marks in M. seminigra. Results from choice experiments suggested that the bees do not scent mark the food (sugar water) itself and that abdominal droplets were excluded as the signal source. Extracts of the most distal tarsomeres, however, attracted recruits in the same way as natural scent marks. We conclude that M. seminigra scent marks a food source by leaving "footprints" secreted at the leg tips. The footprints of at least 40 visits were needed to effectively scent mark. The chemical signal has an active range of about 1 m and its effect persists for about 2 hours. In the absence of footprints no scent marking effect was seen. This finding excludes the importance of mandibular gland secretions (if at all present) for the scent marking observed.

Key words: stingless bee / Melipona / scent marking / footprint substance / recruitment

Correspondence and reprints: Michael Hrncir

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2004