The role of wax and resin in the nestmate recognition system of a stingless bee, Tetragonisca angustula
Jones, Sam M. × van Zweden, Jelle Stijn Grüter, Christoph Menezes, Cristiano Alves, Denise A. Nunes-Silva, Patricia Imperatriz-Fonseca, Vera L. Ratnieks, Francis L.W. #
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology vol:66 issue:1 pages:1-12
Recent research has shown that entrance guards of the stingless bee Tetragonisca angustula make less errors in distinguishing nestmates from non-nestmates than all other bee species studied to date, but how they achieve this is unknown. We performed four experiments to investigate nestmate recognition by entrance guards in T. angustula. We first investigated the effect of colony odours on acceptance. Nestmates that acquired odour from non-nestmate workers were 63% more likely to be rejected while the acceptance rate of non-nestmates treated with nestmate odour increased by only 7%. We further hypothesised that guards standing on the wax entrance tube might use the tube as an odour referent. However, our findings showed that there was no difference in the acceptance of non-nestmates by guards standing on their own colony's entrance tube versus the non-nestmate's entrance tube. Moreover, treatment of bees with nestmate and non-nestmate resin or wax had a negative effect on acceptance rates of up to 65%, regardless of the origin of the wax or resin. The role of resin as a source of recognition cues was further investigated by unidirectionally transferring resin stores between colonies. Acceptance rates of nestmates declined by 37% for hives that donated resin, contrasting with resin donor hives where acceptance of non-nestmates increased by 21%. Overall, our results confirm the accuracy of nestmate recognition in T. angustula and reject the hypothesis that this high level of accuracy is due to the use of the wax entrance tubes as a referent for colony odour. Our findings also suggest that odours directly acquired from resin serve no primary function as nestmate recognition cues. The lack of consistency among colonies plus the complex results of the third and fourth experiments highlight the need for further research on the role of nest materials and cuticular profiles in understanding nestmate recognition in T. angustula.