Genetic structure of nest aggregations and drone congregations of the southeast Asian stingless bee Trigona collina


E. C. Cameron. Fax: 61 29351 4771; E-mail:


In stingless bees, sex is determined by a single complementary sex-determining locus. This method of sex determination imposes a severe cost of inbreeding because an egg fertilized by sperm carrying the same sex allele as the egg results in a sterile diploid male. To explore how reproductive strategies may be used to avoid inbreeding in stingless bees, we studied the genetic structure of a population of 27 colonies and three drone congregations of Trigona collina in Chanthaburi, Thailand. The colonies were distributed across six nest aggregations, each aggregation located in the base of a different fig tree. Genetic analysis at eight microsatellite loci showed that colonies within aggregations were not related. Samples taken from three drone congregations showed that the males were drawn from a large number of colonies (estimated to be 132 different colonies in our largest swarm). No drone had a genotype indicating that it could have originated from the colony that it was directly outside. Combined, these results suggest that movements of drones and possibly movements of reproductive swarms among colony aggregations provide two mechanisms of inbreeding avoidance.