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Picking up the crumbs: the foraging strategy of the stingless bee Tetragonisca angustula

Grant number: 16/22861-6
Support Opportunities:Research Grants - Visiting Researcher Grant - International
Duration: March 01, 2017 - April 02, 2017
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Zoology - Animal Behavior
Principal Investigator:Denise de Araujo Alves
Grantee:Denise de Araujo Alves
Visiting researcher: Francis Leonard Waldemar Ratnieks
Visiting researcher institution: University of Sussex (US), England
Host Institution: Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz (ESALQ). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Piracicaba , SP, Brazil


Bees forage for nectar and pollen. Different flower species attract different bee species. Previous research has shown that this variation depends on foraging energetics. Some bee species can forage more profitably than others on a particular plant species. For example, bumble bees (Bombus spp.) visit lavender flowers three times as quickly as honey bees (Apis mellifera) and so can forage more profitably than honey bees even though they are larger in body size. Tetragonisca angustula is a common stingless bee, Meliponini, found in São Paulo State and most of tropical and subtropical America. It is small, only 3mg body weight versus 59mg for A. mellifera. As a result T. angustula should be able to forage profitably on nectar resources that are individually too small (i.e., low amounts of energy) for larger-bodied bees given their higher "operating costs" (i.e., larger energy expenditure due to larger body size). The project will investigate this "picking up the crumbs" foraging strategy of T. angustula, and how this strategy allows T. angustula to forage on species of flowers ignored by honey bees and other large-bodied bee species. The project will be based on field work on the campus of ESALQ-USP in Piracicaba, São Paulo State. Patches of 15 flower species will be surveyed to determine which bee species bees visit them and the amounts of nectar available per flower. By determining the body weights, foraging speeds (number of flowers visited per minute), and foraging behaviour (proportions of foraging time spent flying, walking, standing) of the different bee species, the project will calculate an energy budget for T. angustula, A. mellifera, and other bee species and how this depends on the plant species. These energy budgets will be used to test the prediction that T. angustula, but not A. mellifera, is able to forage profitably on plant species with low nectar rewards. The project will be carried out by Professor Francis Ratnieks (University of Sussex, UK) and 2 of his PhD students in collaboration with Dr. Denise Alves and Professor Maurício Bento (Department of Entomology and Acarology, ESALQ-USP, Piracicaba, São Paulo State) and their Masters and PhD students. The results will be an important contribution to understanding the foraging ecology of bees. It will also be of practical value in using stingless bees for crop pollination in Brazil. The project will be published as a scientific paper in an international scientific journal. (AU)

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Scientific publications
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
SHACKLETON, K.; BALFOUR, N. J.; TOUFAILIA, H. A.; ALVES, D. A.; BENTO, J. M.; RATNIEKS, F. L. W.. Unique nest entrance structure of Partamona helleri stingless bees leads to remarkable ``crash-landing' behaviour. Insectes Sociaux, v. 66, n. 3, p. 471-477, . (16/22861-6)
SHACKLETON, KYLE; ALVES, DENISE A.; RATNIEKS, FRANCIS L. W.. Organization enhances collective vigilance in the hovering guards of Tetragonisca angustula bees. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, v. 29, n. 5, p. 1105-1112, . (16/22861-6)

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