Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 202, Issue 9–10, pp 709–722 | Cite as

Nectar profitability, not empty honey stores, stimulate recruitment and foraging in Melipona scutellaris (Apidae, Meliponini)

  • Dirk Louis P. SchorkopfEmail author
  • Geovan Figueirêdo de Sá Filho
  • Camila Maia-Silva
  • Martina Schorkopf
  • Michael Hrncir
  • Friedrich G. Barth
Original Paper


In stingless bees (Meliponini) like in many other eusocial insect colonies food hoarding plays an important role in colony survival. However, very little is known on how Meliponini, a taxon restricted to tropical and subtropical regions, respond to different store conditions. We studied the impact of honey removal on nectar foraging activity and recruitment behaviour in Melipona scutellaris and compared our results with studies of the honey bee Apis mellifera. As expected, foraging activity increased significantly during abundance of artificial nectar and when increasing its profitability. Foraging activity on colony level could thereby frequently increase by an order of magnitude. Intriguingly, however, poor honey store conditions did not induce increased nectar foraging or recruitment activity. We discuss possible reasons explaining why increasing recruitment and foraging activity are not used by meliponines to compensate for poor food conditions in the nest. Among these are meliponine specific adaptations to climatic and environmental conditions, as well as physiology and brood rearing, such as mass provisioning of the brood.


Nectar foraging Tropics Food hoarding Food deprivation Observation hive 



This study was supported by Grants of the Austrian “Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst” and “Internationales Büro” (University of Vienna) to DLPS, the Brazilian Science Foundation CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior) under Grant 55/2013—Pró-Integração-AUXPE 3168/2013 to MH, the Brazilian Science Foundation CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior) to CMS, and by Grant P14328 of the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) to FGB. We are grateful to Prof. Z.L.P. Simões and the Departamento de Genetica (FMRP, USP) for their generous hospitality and Dr. Weyder Santana for helping handling the hives in Ribeirão Preto. We thank Prof. L. Bego for providing logistic support and M.A. Batista, Dr. S. Jarau, Dr. Sidnei Mateus, Prof. Ronaldo Zucchi, the late Prof. J.M.F. Camargo, and Prof. P.N. Neto for helpful discussions and encouragement after the first set of unexpected foraging results following honey store removal in both Melipona seminigra and M. scutellaris. We are particularly grateful to Dr. Hans Nemeschkal and Prof. Fred Bookstein for their very valuable help with permutation statistics. We greatly appreciate Prof. Tom D. Seeley’s suggestions that improved an earlier version of the manuscript focusing on aspects of recruitment behaviour. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for suggestions, which further improved our paper. Finally, we gratefully thank Rodrigo O.C. Carvalho and Dr. Airton T. Carvalho and their family for allowing us to conduct the multiple colony foraging experiments at Camaragibe, as well as for their assistance when preparing for the experiments.

Supplementary material

359_2016_1102_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (227 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 226 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk Louis P. Schorkopf
    • 1
    Email author
  • Geovan Figueirêdo de Sá Filho
    • 2
  • Camila Maia-Silva
    • 2
  • Martina Schorkopf
    • 3
  • Michael Hrncir
    • 2
  • Friedrich G. Barth
    • 4
  1. 1.Unit of Chemical Ecology, Department of Plant Protection BiologySwedish University of Agricultural SciencesAlnarpSweden
  2. 2.Departamento de Ciências AnimaisUniversidade Federal Rural do Semi-ÁridoMossoróBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Neuropsychiatry and Psychosomatic MedicineOslo Universitetssykehus HF RikshospitaletOsloNorway
  4. 4.Department for Neurobiology, Faculty of Life SciencesUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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