Body size limits dim-light foraging activity in stingless bees (Apidae: Meliponini)

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Stingless bees constitute a species-rich tribe of tropical and subtropical eusocial Apidae that act as important pollinators for flowering plants. Many foraging tasks rely on vision, e.g. spatial orientation and detection of food sources and nest entrances. Meliponini workers are usually small, which sets limits on eye morphology and thus quality of vision. Limitations are expected both on acuity, and thus on the ability to detect objects from a distance, as well as on sensitivity, and thus on the foraging time window at dusk and dawn. In this study, we determined light intensity thresholds for flight under dim light conditions in eight stingless bee species in relation to body size in a Neotropical lowland rainforest. Species varied in body size (0.8–1.7 mm thorax-width), and we found a strong negative correlation with light intensity thresholds (0.1–79 lx). Further, we measured eye size, ocelli diameter, ommatidia number, and facet diameter. All parameters significantly correlated with body size. A disproportionately low light intensity threshold in the minute Trigonisca pipioli, together with a large eye parameter Peye suggests specific adaptations to circumvent the optical constraints imposed by the small body size. We discuss the implications of body size in bees on foraging behavior.




Streinzer, M., Huber, W., & Spaethe, J. (2016). Body size limits dim-light foraging activity in stingless bees (Apidae: Meliponini). Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology, 202(9–10), 643–655.

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