Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 64, Issue 4, pp 567–578 | Cite as

The effect of food profitability on foraging behaviors and vibrational signals in the African stingless bee Plebeina hildebrandti

Research Article


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.


Stingless 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.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Biology and BiotechnologyRuhr University BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.School of Agriculture Earth and Environmental SciencesTaita Taveta UniversityVoiKenya

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