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Research article2016Peer reviewed

Stingless bees (Melipona subnitida) adjust brood production rather than foraging activity in response to changes in pollen stores

Maia-Silva, Camila; Hrncir, Michael; Imperatriz-Fonseca, Vera Lucia; Schorkopf, Dirk Louis


Highly eusocial bees (honey bees and stingless bees) sustain their colonies through periods of resource scarcity by food stored within the nest. The protein supply necessary for successful brood production is ensured through adjustments of the colonies' pollen foraging according to the availability of this resource in the environment. In honey bees Apis mellifera, in addition, pollen foraging is regulated through the broods' demand for this resource. Here, we investigated the influence of the colony's pollen store level on pollen foraging and brood production in stingless bees (Melipona subnitida). When pollen was added to the nests, colonies increased their brood production and reduced their pollen foraging within 24 h. On the other hand, when pollen reserves were removed, colonies significantly reduced their brood production. In strong contrast to A. mellifera; however, M. subnitida did not significantly increase its pollen foraging activity under poor pollen store conditions. This difference concerning the regulation of pollen foraging may be due to differences regarding the mechanism of brood provisioning. Honey bees progressively feed young larvae and, consequently, require a constant pollen supply. Stingless bees, by contrast, mass-provision their brood cells and temporary absence of pollen storage will not immediately result in substantial brood loss.


Meliponini; Pollen foraging; Food reserves; Brood cell construction; Regulation mechanisms

Published in

Journal of Comparative Physiology A
2016, Volume: 202, number: 9-10, pages: 723-732
Publisher: SPRINGER

    Sustainable Development Goals

    End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

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