The Biology of Stingless Bees

The Biology of Stingless Bees

Like any other living organisms, stingless bees live and interact with the natural environment including the living and nonliving elements within their habitats.

Stingless bees and their habitats

Stingless bees live in tropical and subtropical areas around the world. These areas include: Africa, Australia, Central and South America.

Various species have their preferred habitats and climatic conditions. Some species are present in the rain forest, savanna and also transitions between forest and savanna vegetation zones.

Stingless bees and their forage resources

Stingless bees forage to collect resources needed for their daily survival and these include:

  1. Nectar for energy requirements.
  2. Pollen for protein and other nutritional needs.
  3. Water for cooling hives and for metabolic processes.
  4. Resins and other plant materials for nest-building.
  5. Soil and sand particles for nest building.
  6. Twigs and plant materials for nest building.

Stingless bees and other living organisms.

Within their habitats and ecosystems stingless bees interact with both living and nonliving things and are influenced by the physical factors in their environments.

Some animals have been found and recorded predating on stingless bees. These include: ants, spiders, toads, lizards, birds and monkeys. There are also some beetles which live around or within their hives. One of the serious enemies is the Phorid fly whose larvae destroy the entire colony. There are also wax moths of various species that attack the colony of stingless bees. Some stingless bees act as robbers and tend to rob the resource of other stingless bees thereby resulting in absconding of colonies. Lizards and spiders have been found feeding on stingless bee foragers returning to their nests.

Monkeys are known to steal honey from stingless bees’ nests. Man is one of their serious enemies. Apart from ‘stealing’ their hive products, man sets fire to nest and colonies through their farming practices and also cut and split their nests through logging and lumbering leading to their habitat destruction. Man also sprays hazardous pesticides in the environment and on crops which kill stingless bees or contaminate their forage sources.

Stingless bees also visit plants to collect pollen, nectar, resins, water and wax. Sometimes the bees bite on the leaves and buds to create wounds from which they collect the resources they need.

Stingless bees and nonliving factors

Stingless bees prefer to live in environments that are safe and suitable for their survival. They are however influenced by physical environmental factors that affect their microclimate. For example, there is an optimum temperature range and relative humidity that various species prefer. Most stingless bees prefer warm temperatures and are very active on sunny days and less active on cold and cloudy periods. Stingless bees remain in their nests when it is raining and at night. Some stingless bees may prefer higher elevation than others. It is important to note and collect information on physical factors wherever a particular species is located.

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