This species nests in hollow trunks of living trees, where the workers create a vertical colony. The dominance hierarchy of these perennial colonies is defined by one queen who controls her workers. Out of all of the stingless bees, M. subnitida is fairly profitable given its ability to pollinate and create honey. There is ongoing field research on the behavioral ecology of this species.
Taxonomy and phylogeny
Description and identification
The Melipona subnitida species is divided into the queen, female workers, and males within each colony. They are identifiable by their obscure metasomal bands, lack of facial maculation, and fulvous thoracic pile.
The queen of the Melipona subnitida typically only mates with one male, resulting in high relatedness between female offspring of 0.75 since males are haploid so sisters are 100% related through the male line and half related through the female. The queen lays eggs and lives with her daughters, who are expected to stay with her and help her to maintain the young. The queen is identifiable by her lack of pollen carrying hairs on certain legs and she is smaller in size. Also, her abdomen becomes highly expanded, to a point it can no longer fly.
The workers of this species maintain the strongest fighting abilities, and come from larger cells than males.
Distribution and habitat
Melipona subnitida are commonly found in northeastern Brazil where they are thought to be an important pollinator and honey producer. They are found specifically in the hollow trunks of living Bursera leptophloeos trees. They are notable of the caatinga biome, where they are important in the economy of the human population there due to their pollination and honey production.
Perennial colonies of Melipona subnitida are composed of several hundred to a thousand individuals. Colonies are created as brood cells in horizontal combs. New cells are formed as a new comb is formed on top of the old one, or a new comb is created from scratch. By adding combs peripherally, a vertical column of combs is created. These colonies demonstrate monogyny through their mating habits. It has also been observed that the growth of males within colonies abides by "male-producing periods" in which males are produced during a specific, controlled, period of time. It is noted that both the workers and queens contribute to the offspring of the colonies, so there is a varying proportion per population of bees that are born from the queen or the workers. The queen maintains her power by killing cells that may contain potential queens. Only one queen may exist in a colony at a time and she lays eggs and lives together with her daughters. It is the responsibility of the daughters to take care of brood, protect the nest, and forage for food.
This species has been observed to be a host for a variety of parasites such as flies, beetle mites, moths, ants, and robber stingless bees. There has specifically been noted an infestation of mantisflies of the M. subnitida colonies in Northeastern Brazil.
This species is known for easy handling and produce good honey. Artificial colonies can be maintained by bee-keepers. It is common to farm this species within urban environments in its native range.
New colonies can be formed by division of already existing colonies, which can be done up to four times a year if conditions are adequate and enough food is artificially provided, avoiding the bees expending extra effort finding food for themselves.
M. subnitida brood chambers may produce one litre of honey a year in the caatinga region of Brazil. Older colonies of M. subnitida have been known produce up to six litres of honey. This honey, called jandaíra honey, is considered quite profitable and maintains a particular taste due to the mechanism by which it is made by these bees. The honey, like most honey, mostly consists of glucose and fructose. This species is able to help the population in this area with a lucrative industry, but the practice is mostly unsustainable due to predatory extraction and deforestation, which are the main causes of the decline of M. subnitida.
M. subnitida produces a dark brown wax, which was formerly used to seal food receptacles.
The pollen collected by M. subnitida is mostly from the locally very common plant species Mimosa caesalpiniifolia. Most pollen came from common species found locally, including non-native Eucalyptus. Fabaceae is the most important plant family for this bee species.
- Koedam, D; Contrera, A. de O. Fidalgo; Imperatriz-Fonseca, V. L. (2004). "How queen and workers share in male production in the stingless bee Melipona subnitida Ducke (Apidae, Meliponini)". Insectes Sociaux. Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel. 52 (2): 114–121. doi:10.1007/s00040-004-0781-x.
- Bonnatti, Vanessa; Luz Paulino Simões, Zilá; Franco, Fernando Faria; Tiago, Mauricio (3 January 2014). "Evidence of at least two evolutionary lineages in Melipona subnitida (Apidae, Meliponini) suggested by mtDNA variability and geometric morphometrics of forewings". Naturwissenschaften. 101 (1): 17–24. Bibcode:2014NW....101...17B. doi:10.1007/s00114-013-1123-5. PMID 24384774.
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- Rego, Marcia; Albuquerque, Patricia (2006). "Rediscovery of Melipona subnitida Ducke (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in Restingas of the Maranhenses National Park, Barreirinhas, MA". Neotropical Entomology. Entomological Society of Brazil. 35 (3). Retrieved 17 September 2015.
é uma das espécies mais indicadas para a criação racional com fins lucrativos, mas o extrativismo predatório e o desmatamento são as principais causas do declínio do número de colônias silvestres dessa espécie
- Silva, Tania Maria Sarmento; Pereira de Santos, Francyana; Evangelista-Rodrigues, Adriana; Sarmento da Silva, Eva Mônica; Sarmento da Silva, Gerlania; Santos de Novais, Jaílson; de Assis Ribeiro dos Santos, Francisco; Amorim Camar, Celso (2012). "Phenolic compounds, melissopalynological, physicochemical analysis and antioxidant activity of jandaíra (Melipona subnitida) honey". Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. Elsevier. 29: 10–18. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2012.08.010.