Monday, December 10, 2007 - 8:17 AM

Stingless bee competition: Dominance, aggression, and coexistence in a Brazilian meliponine community

Elinor M. Lichtenberg, and James C. Nieh, University of California, San Diego, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, 9500 Gilman Drive, MC 0116, La Jolla, CA

Interspecific competition likely shapes the multi-species communities of stingless bees, important tropical pollinators. In these complex systems, indirect evidence such as shifts in foraging pattern or dominance hierarchies can indicate potential competitive effects and mechanisms. We studied competition in a Brazilian stingless bee community, calculating behavioral and numerical dominance, an indicator of ecological dominance, and three indices of foraging behavior (probability of initiating displacement interactions, persistence, and coexistence). Ecological dominance indicator values provide further support that competition affects stingless bee assemblages. Values obtained after experimental removal of aggressive species show patterns consistent with short-term competitive release. Results suggest that colony size and recruitment intensity affect community dynamics more than does body length. Our methods can be used to generate hypotheses about bee and wasp foraging dynamics and behavior.

Species 1: Hymenoptera Apidae Trigona hyalinata
Species 2: Hymenoptera Apidae Melipona quadrifasciata
Species 3: Hymenoptera Apidae Scaptotrigona depilis