M. beecheii has a life cycle like that of other honey bees. Individuals start out as eggs that hatch into larvae, and eventually pupate into adults. The adult is a stingless honey bee that looks like a typical honey bee you can see anywhere. It has six legs and four wings – two large and two small on either side. It has two antennae on its head below two large compound eyes. The thorax is completed covered in hair, and the hair extends onto the abdomen, head, and legs. As the name suggests, these bees lack a sting on their abdomen, differentiating them from many other species of bee.
Predators and parasites:
The typical predators of this bee are all kinds of birds, spiders, lizards, and other bugs (Besmeijer and Toth, 1998) The biggest pest species to M. beecheii is the parasitic phorid fly, Pseudohypocera kerteszi. Besides this, there don’t seem to be many parasites or disease causing organisms to honey bees. American foulbrood, caused by Paenibacillus larvae, is a fairly important disease among all kinds of honeybees, though there isn’t really any data on its effect on M. beecheii specifically. (Hart et al., 2009).
Bees are often dependent on mutualisms with flowering plants. They pollinate the flowers by moving pollen and nectar from plant to plant, in the process collecting food for themselves or their colony. There is not any data on the exact species of flowering plants that M. beecheii form these mutualisms with, but they’re patterns and habits have been studied and so we know they do indeed have this relationship (Biesmeijer and Toth, 1998).
The main competitors for a pollinating insect like M. beecheii are other pollinating insects. This includes other stingless bees, such as Melipona fasciata, and intraspecific competition with other hives of the same species. There are no other direct studies of competition, but other scholarly papers shed some light on what are probably serious competitors for M. beecheii. Melendez-Ramirez et al. (2004) described the pollinating habits of other bees, flies, and beetles in the Yucatan area, where M. beecheii is native.
Smaller animals tend to show less resistance to abiotic fluctuations than larger ones. Insects tend to be very vulnerable to changes in temperature, precipitation, sunlight, or any other possible abiotic factors. M. beecheii has been observed in both humid and dry tropical rainforests. Studies that take temperature into account have found that typical temperatures where M. beecheii range from 16°C to 41°C, and annual rainfall was between 2000 and 3000 mm (Beismeijer and Toth, 1998).
Corbet et. al (1993) described the environmental factors of Melipona bicolor bicolor, and also noted its similarity to M. beecheii. They observed that temperature was the most important abiotic factor influencing the behavior of bees, and that the best operating temperature range for the bees in their study was from 16°C to 26°. This falls within the range described by Beismeijer and Toth (1998). Oliveira (1973) noted a trend in M. bicolor bicolor in regards to sunlight. Activity decreased as days went from sunny to cloudy. Another study by Hilario et al. (2000) showed that the same species had its highest flight activity from 60-89% humidity, and the most was seen at the highest humidity. While these studies do not all apply directly to M. beecheii, they are both stingless bees that live in South American tropical forests. More Direct studies of M. beecheii would be needed to be sure of the abiotic factors that are best for them, but the data from M. beecheii can be useful for predicting what they would be.
- 1.) Biesmeijer JC et al. 1999. Nectar foraging by stingless bees in Costa Rica: botanical and climatological influences on sugar concentration of nectar collected by Melipona. Apidologie. 30: 43-45.
- 2.) Beismeijer J C and Toth E. 1998. Individual foraging, activity level and longevity in the stingless bee Melipona beecheii in Costa Rica (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponinae). Insectes soc. 45: 427–443.
- 3.) Colli-Ucan W, Roubik D W, and Villanueva R. 2005. Extinction of Melipona beecheii and traditional beekeeping in the Yucatán peninsula. Bee World. 86(2):35-41.
- 4.) Corbet S A, Fussell M, Ake R, Fraser A, Gunson C, Savage A, and Smith, K. 1993. Temperature and pollination activity of social bees. Ecological Entomology. 18(1): 17-30.
- 5.) Hart A G, Medina L M, and Ratnieks F L W. 2009. Hygienic behavior in the stingless bees Melipona beecheii and Scaptotrigona pectoralis (Hymenoptera: Meliponini). Genetics and Molecular Research. 8(2): 571-576.
- 6.) Hilario S D, Imperatriz-Fonseca V L, and Kleinert A de M P. Flight activity and colony strength in the stingless bee Melipona bicolor bicolor (Apidae, Meliponinae). 2000. Rev. Bras. Biol. 60(2): 299-306.
- 7.) Melendez-Ramirez V et al. 2004. Mixed mating strategies and pollination by insects and wind in coconut palm (Cocos nucifera L. (Arecaceae)): importance in production and selection. Agricultural and Forest Entomology. 6: 155-163.
- 8.) Oliveira M A C, 1973, Algumas observações sobre a atividade externa de Plebeia saiqui e Plebeia droryana. MSc Dissertation. Dep. Zoologia, Instituto de Biociências, USP, São Paulo. 79.
- 9.) Wenseleers T et al. 2004. Queen execution and caste conflict in the stingless bee Melipona beecheii. Etholgy. 110: 725-736.
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