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The Social Food-Flow Within the Colony of a Stingless Bee, Melipona Favosa (F.)

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Trophallaxis in workers of stingless bees was studied in colonies of Melipo favosa with marked individuals. In the brood area of the nest all trophallactic interactions are initiated by the soliciting bee, whereas spontaneous offerings occur particularly near the nest exit. The trophallactic network within the colony does not represent an open system that leads to even distribution. The cell-provisioning bees obtain food, mainly from other bees. Since cell-provisioning is strongly age-dependent, the trophallactic benefit changes strongly according to the age of the bees. The bees that discharge on a particular day are not involved in the pollen uptake from food pots on that day. The dischargers probably obtain trophallactically a liquid food suspension with a high pollen content, which they subsequently regurgitate into the brood cells. The dischargers also perform active food solicitations with other bees immediately after they have discharged during the progress of the provisioning of a cell. For this they often depart quickly from the cell that is being filled. We assume that their withdrawal from the cell vicinity enhances their chances to meet quickly bees that are less reluctant than the other dischargers nearby to donate food to them. This behavior sometimes enables dischargers to perform subsequent regurgitations in the same cell.

Affiliations: 1: Laboratory of Comparative Physiology, University of Utrecht, Jan van Galenstraat 40, 3572 LA Utrecht, The Netherlands


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