three species; see text
Vulture bees are a small group of three closely related American stingless bee species in the genus Trigona which feed on rotting meat rather than pollen or nectar. These are the only known bees which do not rely on plant products for food. This unusual behavior was only discovered in 1982, nearly two centuries after the bees were first classified. The three species in this group are:
Trigona crassipes (Fabricius, 1793)
Trigona necrophaga (Camargo & Roubik, 1991)
- Trigona hypogea robustior (Schwarz, 1948)
- Trigona hypogea hypogea (Silvestri, 1902)
Vulture bees, much like maggots, usually enter the carcass through the eyes. They will then root around inside gathering the meat suitable for their needs. The vulture bees salivates on the rotting flesh and then sucks it up storing it special stomach compartment until it has flown back to the nest. When it returns home, this meat is transferred to another Vulture bee. This bee's job is to mix the animal flesh with a digestive fluid to break it down into an edible substance. This substance is then placed into pot-like containers within the nest until it is time to feed the immature bees.
- Roubik, D.W. 1982. Obligate necrophagy in a social bee. Science 217: 1059-1060.
- Camargo, J.M.F. & Roubik, D.W. 1991. Systematics and bionomics of the apoid obligate necrophages: the Trigona hypogea group. Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 44: 13-39.
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