Flight activity and colony strength in the stingless bee Melipona bicolor bicolor (Apidae, Meliponinae)

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Flight activity of Melipona bicolor bicolor, coming from Cunha (23º05'S, 44º55'W), Atlantic Forest, was studied in ten colonies, and in two periods: from July to September 1993 and from August to September 1995. The colonies were grouped in weak, medium and strong, according to the diameter of the combs, which can provide a good idea of the number of cells built. 855 observations were accomplished for 5 minutes, every half-hour, from 8 to 18 hours. The total number of bees that entered and left the hive and the number of bees that arrived with mud, pollen and resin, besides the number that went out with debris in that period were counted. It was also registered the temperature and the relative humidity of the air. The total external activity, as well as pollen collection, was maximum in the first hours of the morning, mainly in strong colonies. Weak colonies moved their maximum activity approximately to 12 hours. Pollen collection declined gradually, while mud and resin collection rose; removal of debris was greater in the beginning of the morning and in the end of the afternoon. Flight activity increased as relative humidity of the air rose, being optimum for strong colonies in the range between 80%-89%, and for the weakest colonies between 70%-79%. The minimum temperature observed for exit of the bees was 11ºC, with optimum temperatures ranging between 17ºC and 22ºC. The results showed that the general state of the colony influences the different strategies of food collection and that these bees should be adapted to environments of high relative humidity as the Atlantic forest.

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  • A. de M. P. KLEINERT

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