Nesting biology and social structure of Euglossa (Euglossa) townsendi Cockerell (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Euglossini)


The nesting behavior of the euglossine bee Euglossa townsendi was studied on the campus of the University of São Paulo-Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil, from January 1994 to December 1999, using artificial nesting substrate and observation boxes. Twenty-one nests were founded during the study period, with the highest frequencies of nesting occurring during the hot, wet season. Each nest was founded by a single female and, after the completion of the last cell, she spent most of her time in the nest. The males left the nest immediately after emergence and did not return. Some females left the nest within a few days of eclosing, while others stayed in their natal nests and began to reactivate them. Reactivations were performed by a single female, by one or more females in the presence of the mother, by more than one female in the absence of the mother, and by more than one female in the presence of females that participated in the prior reactivation. According to behavior, the females were classified as forager/egg-laying and egg-laying females. The oviposition by egg-laying females was always preceded by oophagy. All of the forager/egg-laying and egg-laying females that were dissected had been inseminated. The behavior displayed by egg-laying females is characteristic of brood parasitism and fits the parental parasitism hypothesis developed as an alternative pathway by which insect sociality could have arisen. The behaviors displayed by E. townsendi, together with those reported for Euglossa cordata, show that both species have bionomic traits that resemble the conditions suggested as precursors of the origin of eusociality.

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Correspondence to C. A. Garófalo.

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Received 12 June 2003; revised 6 April 2004; accepted 22 April 2004.

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Augusto, S.C., Garófalo, C.A. Nesting biology and social structure of Euglossa (Euglossa) townsendi Cockerell (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Euglossini). Insect. Soc. 51, 400–409 (2004).

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Key words.

  • Euglossa
  • nesting behavior
  • brood parasitism
  • oophagy
  • social structure