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Psyche
Volume 2009, Article ID 268756, 7 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2009/268756
Research Article

Trigona corvina: An Ecological Study Based on Unusual Nest Structure and Pollen Analysis

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 0843-03092 Balboa, Panama

Received 1 March 2009; Accepted 9 July 2009

Academic Editor: Howard Ginsberg

Copyright © 2009 David W. Roubik and J. Enrique Moreno Patiño. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

We found that the nest of Trigona corvina (Apidae; Meliponini) consists mainly of pollen exines from bee excrement, forming a scutellum shield encasing the colony. A 20-year-old nest (1980–2000) from a lowland Panama forested habitat was sawed in half longitudinally, and a 95 cm transect was systematically sampled each 5 cm. Samples subjected to detailed pollen analysis held 72 botanical species belonging to 65 genera in 41 families. Over 90% of scutellum pollen volume was Cecropiaceae and Arecaceae, among > 1 0 1 3 grains. Potentially the oldest samples, in the middle of the nest, indicate that Mimosoideae, Euphorbiaceae, and Bombacaceae (now Malvaceae) were lost when Africanized honey bee competitors colonized Panama in 1984. Cecropia deposited in the nest increased markedly after landscape-level vegetation disturbance. Pollen from Cavanillesia demonstrated that the foraging range encompassed 3  k m 2 and perhaps 500 plant species. Trigona corvina primarily foraged on plants with large inflorescences, consistent with foraging theory considering their aggressive behavior.