Comparative study in stingless bees (Meliponini) demonstrates that nest entrance size predicts traffic and defensivity
Couvillon, Margaret J. × Wenseleers, Tom Imperatriz-Fonseca, Vera Lucia Nogueira-Neto, Paulo Ratnieks, Francis L.W. #
Journal of evolutionary biology vol:21 issue:1 pages:194-201
Stingless bees (Meliponini) construct their own species-specific nest entrance. The size of this entrance is under conflicting selective pressures. Smaller entrances are easier to defend; however, a larger entrance accommodates heavier forager traffic. Using a comparative approach with 26 species of stingless bees, we show that species with greater foraging traffic have significantly larger entrances. Such a strong correlation between relative entrance area and traffic across the different species strongly suggests a trade-off between traffic and security. Additionally, we report on a significant trend for higher forager traffic to be associated with more guards and for those guards to be more aggressive. Finally, we discuss the nest entrance of Partamona, known in Brazil as boca de sapo, or toad mouth, which has a wide outer entrance but a narrow inner entrance. This extraordinary design allows these bees to finesse the defensivity/traffic trade-off.