Naturwissenschaften

, Volume 97, Issue 3, pp 319–323

The alternative Pharaoh approach: stingless bees mummify beetle parasites alive

Authors

    • Swiss Bee Research CentreAgroscope Liebefeld-Posieux Research Station ALP
    • Centre for Plant and Food Science, School of Natural SciencesUniversity of Western Sydney
  • Dorothee Hoffmann
    • Department of ZoologyMartin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
    • KU Leuven, Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Anne Dollin
    • Australian Native Bee Research Centre
  • Michael Duncan
    • Centre for Plant and Food Science, School of Natural SciencesUniversity of Western Sydney
  • Robert Spooner-Hart
    • Centre for Plant and Food Science, School of Natural SciencesUniversity of Western Sydney
  • Peter Neumann
    • Swiss Bee Research CentreAgroscope Liebefeld-Posieux Research Station ALP
    • Department of Zoology and EntomologyRhodes University
SHORT COMMUNICATION

DOI: 10.1007/s00114-009-0631-9

Cite this article as:
Greco, M.K., Hoffmann, D., Dollin, A. et al. Naturwissenschaften (2010) 97: 319. doi:10.1007/s00114-009-0631-9

Abstract

Workers from social insect colonies use different defence strategies to combat invaders. Nevertheless, some parasitic species are able to bypass colony defences. In particular, some beetle nest invaders cannot be killed or removed by workers of social bees, thus creating the need for alternative social defence strategies to ensure colony survival. Here we show, using diagnostic radioentomology, that stingless bee workers (Trigona carbonaria) immediately mummify invading adult small hive beetles (Aethina tumida) alive by coating them with a mixture of resin, wax and mud, thereby preventing severe damage to the colony. In sharp contrast to the responses of honeybee and bumblebee colonies, the rapid live mummification strategy of T. carbonaria effectively prevents beetle advancements and removes their ability to reproduce. The convergent evolution of mummification in stingless bees and encapsulation in honeybees is another striking example of co-evolution between insect societies and their parasites.

Keywords

Stingless beeDiagnostic radioentomologyBeetlesParasites

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009