Aggressive foraging of social bees as a mechanism of floral resource partitioning in an Asian tropical rainforest
Interference competition by aggressive foraging often explains resource partitioning, but mechanisms contributing to partitioning have rarely been studied in Asian social bee guilds. Foraging of social bees at canopy flowers of Santiria laevigata (Burseraceae) and honey-water feeders was studied in a lowland mixed-dipterocarp forest in Sarawak, Malaysia. Four stingless bee species (Apidae, Meliponinae), Trigona canifrons, T.␣fimbriata, T. apicalis and T. melina, aggressively defended flower patches and feeders. At the flowers, T.␣canifrons excluded other bees only in the morning when nectar flow peaked. At the feeders, the aggression resulted in asymmetric interference competition, which produced a dominance hierarchy among seven social bee species. Interspecific partitioning of the feeders was detected in time and height but not quality. Only time of the first arrival after feeder presentation was negatively correlated with the dominance hierarchy: more aggressive species arrived at the feeders later than less aggressive species. This result suggests that a trade-off between searching ability and defensive ability at flower patches gives rise to resource partitioning in the social bee guild.
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