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Challenges to the conservation of stingless bees in Atlantic Forest patches: old approaches, new applications

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Abstract

Fragmentation is one of the many threats that leads to the decline in the population of bees, and stingless bees compose the most abundant pollinator group in the neotropical rain forests. Considering the importance of forested areas to the presence of bees that forage above the ground and nest in trees, this study aimed to discuss the effectiveness of artificial bee shelters as a strategy for the conservation of stingless bees in fragmented habitats. Artificial bee shelters (n = 72) were installed in Atlantic Forest patches and were monitored for 8 months. Four (5.5%) artificial shelters were successfully colonized by Scaptotrigona postica (Latreille, 1807) and 23 (32%) shelters contained signs of initial colonization or traces of dead stingless bees. Difficulties faced by the bees in colonizing the artificial bee shelters included water accumulation, predation, and occupation by other species. The occurrence of Scaptotrigona bees may be related to the group’s need to nest in the hollows of living trees. The artificial shelters supported the swarming of Scaptotrigona bees by providing nesting sites that assisted in their self-maintenance in highly fragmented forest patches with scarce adequate nesting sites. The use of artificial bee shelters can be a strategy for studying stingless bees in their natural environment and for evaluating conservation strategies.

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Acknowledgements

We are thankful to SISBIO which authorized the collection of bees; to Dr. Favízia Freitas de Oliveira (Institute of Biology, Federal University of Bahia) for identifying the bees and to Dr. Cláudia Inês da Silva (Institute of Biology, University of São Paulo) for all the assistance provided; to all the land owners who cordially authorized the survey to be taken in their properties; to the farm caretakers who kindly received us; to Roberto from Meliponário Itu, who graciously provided us with a wealth of information; to Maria Virginia Urso Guimaraes and to Denise de Araujo Alves for the valuable notes to the article.

Funding

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Author information

Correspondence to Elaine Cristina Mathias da Silva-Zacarin or Rogério Hartung Toppa.

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Arena, M.V.N., Destéfani, F.C., da Silva, T.N. et al. Challenges to the conservation of stingless bees in Atlantic Forest patches: old approaches, new applications. J Insect Conserv 22, 627–633 (2018) doi:10.1007/s10841-018-0090-8

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Keywords

  • Trap-nests
  • Meliponini
  • Scaptotrigona
  • Artificial bee shelters
  • Fragmentation
  • Bee’s swarming