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Keywords:

  • Apis;
  • bee nest density;
  • Bwindi–Uganda;
  • chimpanzees;
  • honey;
  • Meliponini;
  • predation;
  • Pygmies

ABSTRACT

Honey-making bee colonies in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park were investigated with Batwa Pygmies locating 228 nests of Apis and five stingless bees (Meliponini). The relative importance of predation, food supply, nesting site, and elevation affecting abundance were studied for meliponines in particular. Nest predation and overall nest abundance had no correlation with elevation along a 1400 m gradient, nor did flowering phenology or pollen collection. Many suitable, large trees were unoccupied by bee nests. In 174 ha of forest plots, 2 Meliponula lendliana, 13 M. nebulata, 16 M. ferruginea, 16 M. bocandei, and 20 Apis mellifera adansonii nests occurred, suggesting a habitat-wide density of 39 nests/km2. Compared to other studies, Ugandan Meliponini were uncommon (0.27 colonies/ha, tropical mean = 1.9/ha), while Apis mellifera was numerous (0.12 nests/ha, tropical mean = 0.06/ha), despite park policy allowing humans to exploit Apis. Meliponine colony mortality from predators averaged 12 percent/yr and those near ground were most affected. Tool-using humans and chimpanzees caused 82 percent of stingless bee nest predation. Selective factors affecting nest heights and habit may include auditory hunting by predators for buzzing bees, and indirect mutualists such as termites that leave potential nesting cavities. Mobility and free-nesting by honey bee colonies should enable rapid community recovery after mortality, especially in parks where human honey hunting is frequent, compared to sedentary and nest-site-bound Meliponini.