Nest architecture and colony characteristics of Meliponula (Axestotrigona) ferruginea (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponini) in Cameroon
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Stingless bees have evolved adaptive nest constructions strategies which have resulted in sophisticated nest architecture in many species while others lack certain structural components. However, no information exists on the nest biology and ecology on the genus Meliponula in Cameroon. This study aims to contribute to knowledge on the nest architecture and colony characteristics of Meliponula (Axestotrigona) ferruginea. Meliponula ferruginea belongs to the genus Meliponula and subgenus Axestotrigona. This species was first described by Le Peletier De Saini-Farrgeau (1836) and Michener (The bees of the world, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 2000) recently. In Cameroon the species has been collected in the northern parts of the country, but there has been no attempt to describe the nest architecture. Our stingless bee survey from the Bamenda highlands afromontane forests of Cameroon reveals that this species can either nest in tree trunks or in abandoned traditional hollow hives. Interestingly, 50% of colonies studied nested in traditional hollow hives originally baited for honeybees (Apis mellifera adansonii). The nest entrance of Meliponula (Axestotrigona) ferruginea ranged from 1 to 1.5 cm (1.2±0.0.24 cm) in diameter, while the external entrance tube extended up to 1.6±0.0.4 cm and the nest entrance tube can go up to 5 cm inward in depending on the thickness of the tree trunk. The nest is made up of sticky brown 5–7 (6±0.98) involucra sheets. The size of brood area depends on the age and condition of the nest. The length of the nest could be between 5.5 and 7.6 cm (6.8±0.98 cm) and up to 13± 4.16 cm combs with a comb diameter of about 7.5±1.29 cm. The cells and storage pots are oval in shape but the storage pots are much larger, about 3 times the size of cell. Generally, this study shows a lot of similarities with other previously studied species in terms of the nest characteristics and measurements. However, the above characteristics can be very useful in taxonomical, phylogenetic and ecological studies of M. ferruginea.
KeywordsCameroon Meliponini Meliponula ferruginea nest architecture stingless bees
The authors are thankful to the hunters and beekeepers in the study area for their assistance in locating nesting sites of M. ferruginea and to David Roubik for identification of the bees.
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