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Social Interactions of Gynes and Their Longevity in Queenright Colonies of Melipona favosa (Apidae: Meliponinae)

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

To study the reproduction biology of the Meliponini the behaviour of gyncs was daily observed by means of video in colonies of Melipona favosa that had a laying queen. A new method using Petri-dishes enabled us to monitor gynes for a prolonged time. Observations revealed that queens were continuously reared and killed immediately after birth which resulted in a permanent presence of short-living gynes. Via trophallaxis with nestmates gynes were able to obtain food. From time to time gynes were treated agonistically by workers which concurred with a reduction in the frequency of food donations by workers to gynes. As the gynes aged, the risk to be killed increased and we assume that food deprivation could be a major reason for their death. In periods of intense aggressiveness, workers could eliminate a number of gynes within a few hours. This simultaneous elimination of gynes occurred more frequently than on basis of randomness alone would be expected. We assume that the application of a hive-extension demonstrates that inadequate information about the presence of a queen could trigger the gynes to release their queen pheromones as soon as they are physiologically capable. This behaviour then initiates workers to kill them immediately. In this paper we also describe a typical way of attacking behaviour by workers: in grabbing the gyne's body, workers tried to put secretions onto the gyne. Finally, the function of a permanent presence of gynes is hypothesised as a way of regularly measuring the relative quality of the queen.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ethology & Socio-ecology, Laboratory of Comparative Physiology, Utrecht Univer-sity, P.O. Box 80086, 3508 TB Utrecht, the Netherlands; 2: Centro de Investigaciones Apicolas Tropicales, Universidad Nacional, Heredia, Costa Rica, CA


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