Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 202, Issue 9–10, pp 723–732 | Cite as

Stingless bees (Melipona subnitida) adjust brood production rather than foraging activity in response to changes in pollen stores

  • Camila Maia-Silva
  • Michael Hrncir
  • Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca
  • Dirk Louis P. Schorkopf
Original Paper


Highly eusocial bees (honey bees and stingless bees) sustain their colonies through periods of resource scarcity by food stored within the nest. The protein supply necessary for successful brood production is ensured through adjustments of the colonies’ pollen foraging according to the availability of this resource in the environment. In honey bees Apis mellifera, in addition, pollen foraging is regulated through the broods’ demand for this resource. Here, we investigated the influence of the colony’s pollen store level on pollen foraging and brood production in stingless bees (Melipona subnitida). When pollen was added to the nests, colonies increased their brood production and reduced their pollen foraging within 24 h. On the other hand, when pollen reserves were removed, colonies significantly reduced their brood production. In strong contrast to A. mellifera; however, M. subnitida did not significantly increase its pollen foraging activity under poor pollen store conditions. This difference concerning the regulation of pollen foraging may be due to differences regarding the mechanism of brood provisioning. Honey bees progressively feed young larvae and, consequently, require a constant pollen supply. Stingless bees, by contrast, mass-provision their brood cells and temporary absence of pollen storage will not immediately result in substantial brood loss.


Meliponini Pollen foraging Food reserves Brood cell construction Regulation mechanisms 



We would like to thank the students of the Behavioural Ecology Laboratory (bee-LAB) for their help with the data collection and two anonymous referees for very helpful comments and suggestions. This study complies with current Brazilian laws and was financially supported by grants of the Brazilian Science Foundations CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior) to CMS, and CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico: 304722/2010-3, 309914/2013-2) to MH.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Camila Maia-Silva
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael Hrncir
    • 1
  • Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dirk Louis P. Schorkopf
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento de Ciências AnimaisUniversidade Federal Rural do Semi-ÁridoMossoróBrazil
  2. 2.Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão PretoUniversidade de São PauloRibeirão PretoBrazil
  3. 3.Unit of Chemical Ecology, Department of Plant Protection BiologySwedish University of Agricultural SciencesAlnarpSweden

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