Food Recruitment Information can Spatially Redirect Employed Stingless Bee Foragers


Rémy Vandame, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Carretera Antiguo Aeropuerto Km. 2.5, 30700 Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico.


Within a rewarding floral patch, eusocial bee foragers frequently switch sites, going from one flower to another. However, site switching between patches tends to occur with low frequency while a given patch is still rewarding, thus reducing pollen dispersal and gene flow between patches. In principle, forager switching and gene flow between patches could be higher when close patches offer similar rewards. We investigated site switching during food recruitment in the stingless bee Scaptotrigona mexicana. Thus, we trained three groups of foragers to three feeders in different locations, one group per location. These groups did not interact each other during the training phase. Next, interaction among trained foragers was allowed. We found that roughly half of the foragers switched sites, the other half remaining faithful to its training feeder. Switching is influenced by the presence of recruitment information. In the absence of recruitment information (bees visiting and recruiting for feeders), employed foragers were site specific. Foragers only switched among feeders that were being visited and recruited to. Switching was not caused by learned aversion to experimental handling. Switching in response to recruitment could provide a fitness benefit to the colony by facilitating rapid switching among exploited patches and provide a benefit of increasing plant gene flow between patches.