, Volume 55, Issue 4, pp 387-391
Date: 18 Jul 2008

Nest defence in a stingless bee: What causes fighting swarms in Trigona carbonaria (Hymenoptera, Meliponini)?

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The Australian stingless bee Trigona carbonaria sometimes displays a striking collective behaviour, known as a ‘fighting swarm’ in which thousands of workers fight and die. Molecular analysis of eight naturally-occurring fights showed they almost always comprise just two colonies, one of which is located within 2 m of the fight. Fighting swarms were experimentally triggered by manipulating colonies so that they received non-nestmate workers. Combined, our investigations suggest that T. carbonaria fighting swarms arise as a collective defence of the nest from conspecific invasion (e.g. robbery or nest usurpation)

Received 16 November 2007; revised 31 March 2008; accepted 1 July 2008.