Research Article

A mixed colony of Scaptotrigona depilis and Nannotrigona testaceicornis (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponina)

Published: May 12, 2009
Genet. Mol. Res. 8 (2) : 507-514 DOI: 10.4238/vol8-2keer002

Abstract

We describe a case of a spontaneously established mixed colony of two species of stingless bees. The host colony of Scaptotrigona depilis, an aggressive bee that forms large colonies, was invaded by workers of Nannotrigona testaceicornis, a smaller bee that forms small colonies. The host colony and the invading species colony were maintained in next boxes about 1.5 m apart. The N. testaceicornis colony had been recently divided. Observations were made daily for 10 min, and every two weeks the colony was opened for observations within the nest. Initially the host colony bees repulsed the invading species, but as their numbers built up, they were no longer able to defend the entrance. An estimated 60-90 N. testaceicornis workers lived integrated into the colony of S. depilis for 58 days. During this period, they reconstructed and maintained the entrance tube, changing it to an entrance typical of N. testaceicornis. They also collected food and building material for the host colony. Nannotrigona testaceicornis tolerated transit of S. depilis through the entrance, but did not allow the host species to remain within the tube, though the attacks never resulted in bee mortality. Aggression was limited to biting the wings; when the bees fell to the ground they immediately separated and flew back. There have been very few reports of spontaneously occurring mixed stingless bee colonies. It is difficult to determine what caused the association that we found; probably workers of N. testaceicornis got lost when we split their colony, and then they invaded the colony of S. depilis.

We describe a case of a spontaneously established mixed colony of two species of stingless bees. The host colony of Scaptotrigona depilis, an aggressive bee that forms large colonies, was invaded by workers of Nannotrigona testaceicornis, a smaller bee that forms small colonies. The host colony and the invading species colony were maintained in next boxes about 1.5 m apart. The N. testaceicornis colony had been recently divided. Observations were made daily for 10 min, and every two weeks the colony was opened for observations within the nest. Initially the host colony bees repulsed the invading species, but as their numbers built up, they were no longer able to defend the entrance. An estimated 60-90 N. testaceicornis workers lived integrated into the colony of S. depilis for 58 days. During this period, they reconstructed and maintained the entrance tube, changing it to an entrance typical of N. testaceicornis. They also collected food and building material for the host colony. Nannotrigona testaceicornis tolerated transit of S. depilis through the entrance, but did not allow the host species to remain within the tube, though the attacks never resulted in bee mortality. Aggression was limited to biting the wings; when the bees fell to the ground they immediately separated and flew back. There have been very few reports of spontaneously occurring mixed stingless bee colonies. It is difficult to determine what caused the association that we found; probably workers of N. testaceicornis got lost when we split their colony, and then they invaded the colony of S. depilis.

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