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Stinglessbees, like the honey bees of the genusApis, live with many individualsin a nest where honey and pollen are stored. Although the amounts of honey are generally smaller than in the nests of honey bees, people have used stinglessbee honey for many centuries. Comparatively little attention has been given to these bees in beekeepingdevelopment programmes. lt is now realized that stinglessbees are important resourcesfor the production of a specialtype of honey and other prcducts. A limiting factor in the production of stingless bee honey is the way in which domesticated coloniesare housed.Becauseof the specificbiology and the fu ndamentally different nest architectu re, the tech nology devefopedfor apiculture with A. melliferaand A. ceronodoes not beekeeping. apply to stingless
There is a largesizevariationwithin the For instance,Melipono Meliponinae. fuligiMellponinae) occur noso, largest Stingless bees(Apidae, stingless bee,is more than the in all tropicalregions the world where 13 mm long,whereas dwarf species of a like they are abundant species numbers; Trigonisco in and only duckelmeasures about2 mm. havebeendescribed. The sizeof the coloniesvariesfrom a few hundreds species of queensare much largerthan the hundred individualsin some Melipona Egg-laying populated nests with tens species densely to workers and distinctforms of divisionof beesin species the genus of labourandtask specialization occur among of thousands Because their biodiversity of and bee colonies. Trigono. the membersof stingless in provi- their great abundance tropicalforests, Whereashoneybeesare progressive in thesebeesare importantfor pollination sioners,stingless bees havea systemof ecosystems4. mass-provisioning broodcells. their During taopical short periods,a restrictednumberof bees depositthe food in the cell,after whichthe Nest architecture of queenlaysan eggon top of the food. In all stingless bees is the stingless species, system charbee this acterized a well-defined by cycle:periodsof The nestsof stingless beesare more elabobehaviour alternatewith shoru rate and complexthan those of Apismellfcell-building behav- ero.Nests of most species built within boutsof intensive cell-provisioning are iour.Variations this process discussed protectivecavities in are suchas hollow trees or Fewspecies buildtheir nests in the ground. elsewhere'.
8eeWorld 80(2): 70-79(1999) @IBRA
What are stingless beest
a mixture of beeswax and plant resins. where their status as insect pollinators is dominanto. 1). from the storage the arates brood chamber Brood cells in a cluster compartment. e.Extensiveuse is also made of batumen. animal faeces etc.there are two cell types: brood cells and storage pots (fig. The narrow nest entrance of Meliponoand other genera allows the nest to be defended by one or only a few guards positioned in the mouth of the entrance tube which is often rather elaborate. honey and other products of these bees by havebeen used intensively Indiangroups FlG. with irregularlyshapedcavities.Species of arrangements brood cells.irregular Meliponiculture Before early settlers introduced the European honey bee to the Americas. alsofound.g. The main building material is cerumen. However. Because stingless bees are so abundant. Storage pots are in most species several times larger than the brood cells. plant resins. Detaif of honey pot into which bees discharge nectari Melipona beecheii. Stinglessbeesare particularlydiverseand abundant in tropical America.In principle.71 in exposed positions. intermediate are combs. Note the size ofthe Pot.a mixture of mud. . horizontal single-layered by combsis surrounded a series horizontal sepThisinvolucrum of of sheets cerumen.and Pots containing honey are generally intermixed with those that contain pollen. stinSless bees were the only colony-forming and honey-storingbees in the neotropics. are not surroundedby an arrangement This allowsthem to fit into involucrum. Within the nest the brood chamber is always clearly separated from the area of food storage. l. Pure plant resin is also commonly used and is collected in considerable quantities. pots with honey are sometimes grouped at the periphery of the storage compartment. their brood cellsin arrange Most species The pileof combs. whereas pollen pots may be found near the brood chamber.
In some regions. after which the building material and the pollen are thrown away.local traditional meliponicultureis currently being studied and improved. in the Amazonianforest. Anthropological information is availableabout traditions relating to the domestication of stingless bees by meso-American Indians (partlcularly the Maya). Mexico: Maya Indians with stack of traditional hives ofMefi:pono beecheii in Yucatan. 2). stingless bees are kept in hollow logs transferred direcdy. logs are neatly cut and widened before a colony is transferred (fig.The honey is squeezed frcm the Pots. Mexico.72 from South and Central America. 2.from the forest. Ti^aditionally.One of the reasons for this renewed interest is the spread of Africanized honey bees'. As an interesting complementary form of small-scalebeekeeping. also made important use of stingless bees. Mexico.meliponiculturehas againstarted to receive attention in Central America after a period of decline.g. FlG.Meliponiculturewas very important in this part of the world and interesting management procedures are described. FfG. particularlyin the Yucatanpeninsula. Recently. e. South American Indians.3' Costa Rica: pots filled with honey and pollen are removed frcm a hive of Melipona beecheii. .
the housing of colonies. Certainly stinSless bee honey. defensive behaviour of Africanized honey bees may be persuadedto take up meliponiculture. Since pots with pollen are often also found in the honey storage area' a considerableamount of pollen generally gets lost during harvest and the emPtied nest material is thrown away (fig.73 Honey harvest Honey is frequently collected from natural colonies in the forest (honey hunting). FlG. out thesefiles. Natural enemies of stingless bees bees A majorpestfor stingless isthe phorid sp.Many people who have opted out of beekeeping because of the highly .Stinsless needto sealpartsofthe hive. 3).and it can improve the economics of many households.Furthermore. does fit very well in the present developmentof niche (export) markets for speciality honeys.This often leads to the destruction of the nests.women in particular. and coloniescan suffer badlyas a result of the harvest. The nest cavity in a log-hive is sometimes difficult to reach as the log has only narrow openings at each end (fig.without damagingthe pots. The maggots damaged beedestroythe completenest.4. After the stoPPer is removed from the hive the honey Pots are clearly visible. is necessary to increase honey production. althoughthe amount of honey produced by stinglessbeeswill always be much lessthan the amount produced by to honey bees. Suction devices have been developed that are used to extract honey from pots in the log hives. During the harvest. Guatemala: log with nest of Mefipono beecheii suspended from a roof. 4).Flies the beenableto invade nest preferto lay eggs the pollenin on their very numerous can rapidly pots. the antibiotic activity of stinglessbee honeys' may leadto the use of these honeysin medicinal products. Prospects for development The developmentof traditional meliponiculture providesnew opportunitiesfor people in rural areas. multiplication and harvest procedures. with its delicate taste. and leavingthe brood and pollen stores untouched. particularly if floral resources are abundant.g.other keepers with mudto keep thanthe mainentrance.basedon the biology of the bees. e.) fly (Pseudohypocero which can feed on that have storedpollenandon brood.lt shouldbe possible improve manyaspectsof traditional meliponiculture. and often to that of the tree as well. Part of the brood may be destroyed when the honey is taken out.the honey is squeezedout of the storage pots. lmproved and rationalizedmanagementof domesticatedcolonies.
e.g. Upward space for the growth ofthe brood nest is created by the fact that each of the stacked trays. Severaltypes of hives for stingless bees have been described. The hive allows for the unobstructed vertical development of the brood chamber. The principle of shallow drawers for pot construction has been adapted by other designers of stinglessbee hives.a hive for housingthese bees hasto be very different from the esablished honey bee hives.the production of queensand drones. Up to now the publishedtypes of sringless bee hives that adapt the Nogueira-Neto shallow-tray principle havethe disadvantage that they are composed of many loose parts (shallow trays stacked verrically) thar have to be removed when the hive is opened for harvesting honey and for inspection. Van Veen and coworkers recommended the use of a box with a tight-sealinglid for housing Melipona beecheii.whose walls surround the whole hive as in the Nogueira-Neto hive.colony reproduction cycles. they should be included more often in programmesfor the conservationand management of natural resources.". developedin Tobago by Utrecht University. nest construction and foraging behaviour. in greenhouse crops. local people are keenly interested in participating in meliponiculture training programmes which have been set up by the Universidad Nacionaland the Ministry/of Agriculture in co-operation with the Bee Research Department of Utrecht University. Hives in current use and their limitations Sincethe architectureof stingless bee nests is fundamentally different from that of Apis 'rational' nests. The essential feature of the Nogueira-Neto hive is that the food pots are constructed in a shallow tray that The UTOB hive The 'Utrecht University TobagoHive' (UTOB hive). ensures that the bees construct only one layer of pots in this chamber. More space can be provided by stacking additional trays neatly on top of each other. which have a deep section containing the brood with honey supers placed above it. When these hives are opened (i. Becausestinglessbees rank as very important indigenous pollinators of neotropical and other tropical forests. The 'Nogueiro-Neto' hive is well known. The removal of the trays. In addition to these perspectivesfor rural development.74 In Costa Rica. generally damagesthe protective sealingof a relatively large part of the hive. lacks part of the drawer-floor.At presentexperimentsin this field are being carried out in severalcountries. Paulo Nogueira-Neto started his long series of publicationsabout stinglessbee biology and about-his type of stinglessbeehive 50 years ago. lt is important that the local people who want to take up meliponiculture are given reliable information about the development of individualbees. In some Nogueira-Neto-type hives.two other applicationsof stingless bees should be mentioned.Modern agriculturerequiresthe use of various specificpollinators. The fact that this diversegroup of colonyJivingbees can be used for pollination in agro-ecosystems is very likely to encourage meliponiculture. except the bottom one. the brood nest is not involvedat all during harvesting.e. and this allows phorid flies to invade the hive. the trays are removed) for honey extraction the brood nest is exposed and the involucrumis often damagedin the process. and a suction device can be used to harvest honey from the pots very rapidly causingminimal trouble to the colony. lt is difficult for the beesto sealso many cracksquickly. Prof. was designed satisfy to the followingmajor criteria: .
The connecting walls sepanting brood chmber and honey chamber have an opening that allows the bees to pass unhindered between the chambere.75 A 2. The two chambers fit tightly into the rim of the bottom tny.5 brood cnamDer FlG. Diagm of UTOB hive. The hive entrance for the bees is on the side away frcm the brood nest. A.5 2. 5. . UTOB hive. B. C. UTOB hive with brcod chamber and honey chamber in position on the basal tray and with lids from the chambere removed. Only this small opening to the brood chamber is exposed when the honey chamber is removed. assembled with two compartments (brcod chamber and honey chamber) resting on a wooden bottom tray that is surrounded by a rim (2 cm high). Exploded diagram of the UTOB hive.
00 13. .) Length Width Brood chamber 11. (All internal measurements in centimetres. 6.00 13.00 7. The two chambers fit tightly into the rim of the bottom tray. The opening is relativelysmall.00 Honey chamber 40. The size of the brood chamber should force the bees to construct all other pots in the adjoining honey chamber. O The brood chambershould be a separate unit. when the colony is developing O The brood chamber should be just big enough to satisrya good-sized brood nest and only a few storage pots. The brood chamber is high enoughand broad enoughfor the complete development of a good-sized brood nest. Honey is dained frcm pots in honey chamber after the honey pots have been punctured at the top.c): a brood chamber and a singlehoney chamber. which can be opened for inspection.76 and cracks in order to prevent invasion by phorid flies.so that when the TABLE 1. Measurements of UTOB hive for /Vlelipona fovosoon Tobago.00 Height 13. O lt should be possibleto remove and subsequentlyopen the honey chamberwithout exposing the brood nest and with minimal removal of hive parts. Tobago: Honey chmber of UTOB hive can easily be taken off. These are resting on a wooden bottom tray that is surrounded by a rim. Pollen pots can remain in position. 5 a.b.The hive construction should facilitatethe quick and easy removal and replacement of the honey chamber. the brood chamber The wall that separates from the honey chamber when both are placed on the tray has an opening that allows the bees to pass unhindered from brood chamber to honey chamber.00 O The hive should allow honey to be harvested effectively without damage to or destruction of pollen pots which are generally constructed intermixed with the honey pots. O The connection between the honey chamber and the brood chamber should be such that the honey chamber can be disconnectedeasily. This criterion leadsto a hive with the Nogueira-Neto hive tray principle for the honey chamber. but should not need much manipulation well. Honey should therefore be extracted by opening only a part of the hive.Removaland replacement should causea minimum of damage FlG. The UTOB hive meets the above criteria and consists of two main parts (fig.
The flat honey chamber has a long rectangular shapeand when in position on the tray. so it is economic for foragers and nest bees in the hive to havetheir own compartments. The hive entrance is on the side away from the brood nest (fig.they need hivesthat FlG. The size of the UTOB hives used were adapted to house Melipona favoso. is tightly pressed againstthe brood chamber. tively smallstingless The size of a hive for this speciesliving in these local conditions is indicatedin the illustrations. Sometimes. This will generallyresult in a monolayer of pots. but not completely on toP of each other. The honey chamber is shallow but high enough to allow for the construction of a layer of pots one-and-a-half pots high. pots can be built at different levels. when more pots are packed into the honey chamber.77 honey chamber is taken away from the tray. a relabee with smallcolonies. Draining honey from the honey pots is now very easy and a fast procedure because of the low viscosity of this honey (fig. 7. Poa that contain pollen are opened only to check their contentsand can remain in position. only a small opening is made in the brood chamber. Tobago: Both compartments ofthe UTOB hive are open. to be opened for honey extraction. 6). From our studies on divisionof labour:we know that foraging bees rarely perform any other nest duties. This means that all pots can without the need of be opened individually cutting Pots away. 8). Honey can be harvestedquickly by opening the top of the pots with a pointed knife. In this way. foragers do not have to traverse large parts of the nest when depositing collected food in storage pots or when transferring food to nest mates. lt should be stressed that because the different species of stingless beesvary in body size. Brood nest is well developed in the brcod chamber and pots full of honey and pollen are arnnged in the honey chamben . 7). The UTOB hive has been tested for more than three years on the islandof Tobago(fig.
THA. J. Evenfor the same species. pp 14G168. and many other friendly and experienced beekeepers. Cambridge.ARCE. ROUBf D W (1989)kology ond noturolhistory K. Chief Technical Officer of Agriculture.Editora Ch6caras sem e Quintais. 6. Brazil. 4. the brood nest. VEEN. CambridgeUniversityPress. The removal the honeychamof ber is easy andleads onlyto minimal openingof the brood chamber.In particular I should like to thank Jerry Keens Dumas. Tobago: installation of UTOB hive. have co-operated for many years in applied research on stinglessbees and in the management of hives. Acknowledgements This new hive is the result of a long period of collabomtion between members of a team working with stinglessbees. H M (1990) Beekeepingwith stingless bees (Apidae. Meliponinae) in the Central Conclusions The designof the UTOB hive allowsfor quick and efficientharvesting. NOUGUEIRA-NETO. are adapted to their specific needs. Costa Rica. of bee Pegone Autumn 1994:9-10. Johannn Veenand HenryArce. P (1970) A criosdo de obelhos rndigenos ferrdo. FlG. Gladstone Solomon. Rico Clarc. NOUGUEIM-NETO. Frans Meeuwsen has suoervisedvarious Dutch and international studentsstudyingstingless bees in the tropics and at Utrecht University. 3. SOMMEUER. 2. Edigio Nogueirapis.J W vnru. oftropicolbees.78 position. O M M E U EM J ( 1 9 9 7 ) T h e . Fundamental research of importance for this work is currently being undertaken by Koos Biesmeijer and Judith Slm. PRAM/CINAT Universidad Nacional. UK. More information on stinglessbeekeepingis to be found regularly in the Pegone newsletter which is publishedby the bee research department of Utrecht Universitys. In particular Luc de Bruijn. in a specificarea.This meansthat developingthe right size of UTOB hive for a certain species of stingless bee in a certain area has to be based on local experience with the bees. ) (1994) Recommendations for the manipulation stingless colonies.365 pp (2a edition). is very lt importantthat the honeystoragecompartmentcanbe removed.it may be necessaryto vary the size of brood chamber or honey chamber slightly so that it corresponds to the usual size of e. both working on Tobago.On the islandof Trinidad we received wluable supportfrcm HarrypereadRamsamooj.their domestication and relationships with pests.g. 8.Utrecht"The Netherlands. References L B R U U NL L M D E . openedandreplaced without disturbing brood nestandthat the honeycan be collectedwithout destroying or removingthe honey pots. yl 5.Brazil. P (1997)Vidae aiogoode obelhas indlgenos sem ferdo. NECTAR. Sommeijeri J et ln M produa)on the oL (eds) Perspectrves honey in for tropics.446 pp. leads minThis to imum disturbance the brood nestand in greatlyreduces the risk of an invasion by phoridflies. SOMMEUER. Utrechg hx made an important and nluable contribution to the dselooment of this hire. 514 pp.The results of PMM/CINAT have been essential for our underetandingofthe biologr of stingless bees. president of the Tobago Apicultuml Society and many other beekeepers on the island of Tobago have contributed to this work and have made the field studies posslble. S R compositionand propertiesof honeysof stingless bees(Melipona). The pollen pots remain undamaged their original in . and EdsonGeorge of Bon Accod.
trophallaxis and sociality in stinglessbees. pp WesMew Press.I Como transfeiir la colonia de un tronco hueco a una caia"ln Veen.H G SOMMEUER. poto uno Arce Arce. Nalepa. L L M DE (1994) Intranidalfeeding. J. M J (1993) Maneio racional de la abeiasin Melipono beecheii (Apidae: aguii6n Meliponinae). 39t+18. Costa Rica. J. H G (eds) PersPectvds Memorias del ll Congr. lmprenta UNA SanJos6.79 American Region. ARCE ARCE. M SOMMEUER.J W vrN. .C (eds) Nourishmentand omlution in insect societies. obiculturdsostenible. VEEN. Nac.pp 4l-45.an alternatire for the killer bee?Al-Sarrce18: 23-24. de Apicultura. ln Hunt.J W van. BRUIN.