The effect of food profitability on foraging behaviors and vibrational signals in the African stingless bee Plebeina hildebrandti
The study of stingless bee foraging strategies and communication about food sources focused mainly on neotropical species. African stingless bees have received much less attention by researchers. Our study aims to fill this gap and, therefore, focuses on the African stingless bee Plebeina hildebrandti. Food profitability appears to influence various aspects of the foraging process in stingless bees. To study the effect of food profitability on the foraging process, we trained foragers to artificial feeders containing different food qualities and studied the individual foraging process with respect to food uptake, foraging cycles, as well as food transfer to nestmates. Our results indicate that foragers of P. hildebrandti adjust foraging behaviors according to the food profitability in a way that may increase colony’s efficiency. Furthermore, we studied the influence of different food qualities on the vibrational signals produced by foragers during food transfer. Signal duration, pulse duration, and duty cycle appear to be adjusted according to the food quality, i.e., profitability. We measured the duration potential recruits which have direct contact to the forager and asked whether this time is long enough to gain profitability information from the vibrational signals. The informational value of the vibrational signals is discussed.
KeywordsStingless bees Foraging Trophallaxis Vibrational communication Food profitability Food quality
Thanks to Mwashalo and Solomon for access to stingless bee nests. Many thanks to Andrew P Mwasi for field assistance, dedication, and curiosity. Thanks to two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. KK was financially supported with a scholarship and travel Grants from the Deutsche Studienstiftung. FAH, Feodor Lynen Research Fellow, was financially supported by the Alexander von Humboldt foundation. This work complies with the current laws of Kenya where the experiments were carried out. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
- Carrijo TF, Gonçalves RB, Santos RG (2012) Review of bees as guests in termite nests, with a new record of the communal bee, Geasochira aabscura (Smith, 1879) (Hymenoptera, Apidae), in nests of Anoplotermes banksi Emerson, 1925 (Isoptera, Termitidae, Apicotermitinae). Insect Soc 59:141–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Eardley C (2004) Taxonomic revision of the African stingless bees (Apoidea: Apidae: Apinae: Meliponini). Afr Plant Prot 10:63–96Google Scholar
- Farina WM, Grüter C (2009) Trophallaxis: a mechanism of information transfer. In: Jarau S, Hrncir M (eds) Food exploitation by social insects: an ecological, behavioral, and theoretical approach. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 173–187Google Scholar
- Hrncir M, Barth FG (2014) Vibratory communication in stingless bees (Meliponini): the challenge of interpreting the signals. In: Cocroft RB, Gogala M, Hill PSM, Wessel A (eds) Studying vibrational communication. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp 349–374Google Scholar
- Hrncir M, Jarau S, Zucchi R, Barth FG (2004) Thorax vibrations of a stingless bee (Melipona seminigra). II. Dependence on sugar concentration. J Comp Physiol A 190:549–560Google Scholar
- Hrncir M, Barth FG, Tautz J (2006a) Vibratory and airborne-sound signals in bee communication (Hymenoptera). In: Drosopoulos S, Claridge MF (eds) Insect sound and communication—physiology, behaviour, ecology and evolution. CRC press, Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton, pp 421–436Google Scholar
- Lakes-Harlan R, Strauß J (2014) Functional morphology and evolutionary diversity of vibration receptors in insects. In: Cocroft RB, Gogala M, Hill PSM, Wessel A (eds) Studying vibrational communication. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp 277–302Google Scholar
- Michener CD (2000) The bees of the world. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, p xiv+913Google Scholar
- Nieh JC, Tautz J, Spaethe J, Bartareau T (1999/2000) The communication of food location by a primitive stingless bee, Trigona carbonaria. Zoology 102:238–246Google Scholar
- Núñez JA (1966) Quantitative Beziehungen zwischen den Eigenschaften von Futterquellen und dem Verhalten von Sammelbienen. Zeitschrift für vergl Physiologie 53:142–164Google Scholar
- Weast RC, Lide DR, Astle MJ, Beyer WH (eds) (1989) CRC Handbook of chemistry and physics 70th edn. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FloridaGoogle Scholar