Nest defence in a stingless bee: What causes fighting swarms in Trigona carbonaria (Hymenoptera, Meliponini)?
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- Gloag, R., Heard, T.A., Beekman, M. et al. Insect. Soc. (2008) 55: 387. doi:10.1007/s00040-008-1018-1
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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)