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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Colony foraging allocation is finely tuned to food distance and sweetness even close to a bee colony

  • Author(s): León, A
  • Arias-Castro, C
  • Rodríguez-Mendiola, MA
  • Meza-Gordillo, R
  • Gutiérrez-Miceli, FA
  • Nieh, JC
  • et al.

Published Web Location

© 2015 The Netherlands Entomological Society. Social bee colonies can allocate their foraging resources over a large spatial scale, but how they allocate foraging on a small scale near the colony is unclear and can have implications for understanding colony decision-making and the pollination services provided. Using a mass-foraging stingless bee, Scaptotrigona pectoralis (Dalla Torre) (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini), we show that colonies will forage near their nests and allocate their foraging labor on a very fine spatial scale at an array of food sources placed close to the colony. We counted the foragers that a colony allocated to each of nine feeders containing 1.0, 1.5, or 2.0 M sucrose solution [31, 43, and 55% sucrose (wt/wt), respectively] at distances of 10, 15, and 20 m from the nest. A significantly greater number of foragers (2.6-5.3 fold greater) visited feeders placed 10 vs. 20 m away from the colony. Foraging allocation also corresponded to food quality. At the 10-m feeders, 4.9-fold more foragers visited 2.0 M as compared to 1.0 M sucrose feeders. Colony forager allocation thus responded to both differences in food distance and quality even when the travel cost was negligible compared to normal colony foraging distances (10 m vs. an estimated 800-1 710 m). For a nearby floral patch, this could result in unequal floral visitation and pollination.

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