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Survival strategies of stingless bees (Melipona subnitida) in an unpredictable environment, the Brazilian tropical dry forest

Maia-Silva, Camila, Hrncir, Michael, da Silva, Claudia Inês, Imperatriz-Fonseca, Vera Lucia
Apidologie 2015 v.46 no.5 pp. 631-643
Melipona, brood rearing, drought, environmental factors, flowers, food availability, food intake, forage, foraging, forests, pollen, stingless bees, temperature, trees
Unpredictable environments are a challenge to highly eusocial bees because unreliable food availability, owing mainly to seasonally unpredictable precipitation rates, renders the maintenance of permanent colonies difficult. Here, we investigated the strategy of the stingless bee Melipona subnitida to cope with elevated temperatures and extended, irregular periods of drought in the Brazilian tropical dry forest. We found a high association between colony behaviour (pollen foraging and brood production) and environmental parameters (abiotic factors and availability of pollen sources), suggesting that colonies tightly adjust their activities to the respective environmental conditions. This minimises unnecessary costs related to foraging and brood rearing when forage availability is low. Additionally, M. subnitida selectively foraged at the most lucrative pollen-sources (mass-flowering trees, plants with poricidal flowers), which indicates that the colonies maximise their food intake as soon as resources are available.