Warfare in stingless bees

Gruter, C., von Zuben, L.G., Segers, F.H.I.D., & Cunningham, J.P. (2016) Warfare in stingless bees. Insectes Sociaux, 63(2), pp. 223-236.

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Bees are well known for being industrious pollinators. Some species, however, have taken to invading the nests of other colonies to steal food, nest material or the nest site itself. Despite the potential mortality costs due to fighting with an aggressive opponent, the prospects of a large bounty can be worth the risk. In this review, we aim to bring together current knowledge on intercolony fighting with a view to better understand the evolution of warfare in bees and identify avenues for future research. A review of literature reveals that at least 60 species of stingless bees are involved in heterospecific conflicts, either as attacking or victim colonies. The threat of invasion has led to the evolution of architectural, behavioural and morphological adaptations, such as narrow entrance tunnels, mud balls to block the entrance, decoy nests that direct invaders away from the brood chamber, fighting swarms, and soldiers that are skilled at immobilising attackers. Little is known about how victim colonies are selected, but a phylogenetically controlled analysis suggests that the notorious robber bee Lestrimelitta preferentially attacks colonies of species with more concentrated honey. Warfare among bees poses many interesting questions, including why species differ so greatly in their response to attacks and how these alternative strategies of obtaining food or new nest sites have evolved.

Impact and interest:

2 citations in Scopus
1 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 95499
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Stingless bees, Warfare, Alternative foraging strategies, Cleptoparasitism, Lestrimelitta, Meliponini
DOI: 10.1007/s00040-016-0468-0
ISSN: 0020-1812
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI)
Deposited On: 11 May 2016 23:06
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2017 19:01

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