Open Access
Volume 37, Number 2, March-April 2006
Stingless bees: biology and management
Page(s) 124 - 143
Published online 22 June 2006
Apidologie 37 (2006) 124-143
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2006026

Stingless bee nesting biology

David W. Roubika, b

a  Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado 0843-03092, Balboa, Ancón, Panamá, República de Panamá
b  Unit 0948, APO AA 34002-0948, USA

(Received 2 October 2005 - Revised 29 November 2005 - Accepted 23 December 2005 - published online 22 June 2006)

Abstract - Stingless bees diverged since the Cretaceous, have 50 times more species than Apis, and are both distinctive and diverse. Nesting is capitulated by 30 variables but most do not define clades. Both architectural features and behavior decrease vulnerability, and large genera vary in nest habit, architecture and defense. Natural stingless bee colony density is 15 to 1500 km-2. Symbionts include mycophagic mites, collembolans, leiodid beetles, mutualist coccids, molds, and ricinuleid arachnids. Mutualist bacteria and fungi preserve food and brood provisions. Nest associates include trees, termite, wasp and ant colonies. Ventilation is the means of nest environment regulation, achieved by fanning worker bees. Permanence of stingless bee nests, with annual mortality ca. 13%, implies a colony has 23 years to reproduce. Inability to freely swarm and single mating may all increase nesting specificity, competition, symbiosis and cleptobiosis in communities, while disease is rare.

Key words: Meliponini / Apidae / nest architecture / nest microclimate / evolutionary ecology

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2006