Mass provisioning is a term used in entomology to refer to a form of parental behavior in which an adult (most commonly a hymenopteran such as a bee or wasp) stocks all of the food for each offspring in a small chamber (a "cell") prior to laying the egg. In such cases, the food is typically in the form of paralyzed or dead prey items (in predatory wasps), or masses of mixed pollen and nectar (in bees); only rarely are other sorts of food resources used (such as floral oils, leaves, dung, or carrion). The most well-known examples from outside the Hymenoptera are various lineages of dung beetles, which typically provision with either leaves or dung. Once the provisions are in place and the egg is laid, the cell is almost invariably sealed, to protect the developing brood (Wilson, E.O. 1971).
In a few extreme cases, such as stingless bees (which are eusocial), the number of cells in a single nest can number in the thousands, but more typically a given nest will contain either a single cell, or only a small number (fewer than 10) (Wilson, E.O. 1971).
Many of the more well-known eusocial insects, such as ants and honey bees, practice progressive provisioning, where the larvae are fed directly and continually during their development (Wilson, E.O. 1971).
Wilson, E.O. (1971) The Insect Societies. Harvard, Belknap Press.
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