, Volume 92, Issue 3, pp 147–150 | Cite as

Morphology and structure of the tarsal glands of the stingless bee Melipona seminigra

  • Stefan JarauEmail author
  • Michael Hrncir
  • Ronaldo Zucchi
  • Friedrich G. Barth
Short Communication


Footprint secretions deposited at the nest entrance or on food sources are used for chemical communication by honey bees, bumble bees, and stingless bees. The question of the glandular origin of the substances involved, however, has not been unequivocally answered yet. We investigated the morphology and structure of tarsal glands within the fifth tarsomeres of the legs of workers of Melipona seminigra in order to clarify their possible role in the secretion of footprints. The tarsal gland is a sac-like fold forming a reservoir. Its glandular tissue is composed of a unicellular layer of specialized epidermal cells, which cover the thin cuticular intima forming the reservoir. We found that the tarsal glands lack any openings to the outside and therefore conclude that they are not involved in the secretion of footprint substances. The secretion produced accumulates within the gland’s reservoir and reaches as far as into the arolium. Thus it is likely that it serves to fill and unfold the arolium during walking to increase adhesion on smooth surfaces, as is known for honey bees and weaver ants.


Glandular Epithelium Scent Mark Tarsal Gland Borax Solution Imaginal Moult 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are very grateful to Sidnei Mateus for his unfailing help in handling the bees. This study was supported by grant P 14328 of the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) to F. G. B. The work in Brazil was conducted under permit Ibama 074/00-Difas-Direc and complies with the current laws of Brazil.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan Jarau
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Hrncir
    • 2
  • Ronaldo Zucchi
    • 3
  • Friedrich G. Barth
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Experimental EcologyUniversity of UlmUlmGermany
  2. 2.Biocentre, Institute of ZoologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of São Paulo, FFCLRPRibeirão PretoBrazil

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