Melipona subnitida

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Melipona subnitida
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Clade: Euarthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Genus: Melipona
Species: M. subnitida
Binomial name
Melipona subnitida
Ducke, 1911

Melipona subnitida is a neotropical endemic bee species in the Apidae family found in the dry areas of Northeastern Brazil. This species of stingless bees practices single mating, monogynous habits.[1]

This species nests in hollow trunks of living trees, where the workers create a vertical colony.[2] The dominance hierarchy of these perennial colonies is defined by one queen who controls her workers.[1] Out of all of the stingless bees, M. subnitida is fairly profitable given its ability to pollinate and create honey.[3] The field research on this species is part of the ongoing subject of Behavioral Ecology.

Taxonomy and phylogeny[edit]

Melipona subnitida is part of the family Apidae. This species is within the tribe Meliponini ("stingless bees"), and was originally described by Adolpho Ducke, a Brazilian researcher.[4]

Description and identification[edit]

The Melipona subnitida species is divided into the queen, female workers, and males within each colony.[5] They are identifiable by their obscure metasomal bands, lack of facial maculation, and fulvous thoracic pile.[6]

Queen characteristics[edit]

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.[1]


The workers of this species maintain the strongest fighting abilities, and come from larger cells than males.[1]


The males of Melipona subnitida are reared similarly to workers, although they are raised in different cell sizes.[1] Workers of M. subnitida strongly resemble those of Melipona favosa.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

M. subnitida's geographical region, NE Brazil

Melipona subnitida are commonly found in Northeastern Brazil where they are thought to be a main contributor of pollen and honey production. They are found specifically in the hollow trunks of living Bursera leptophloeos trees. Additionally, they have been noted in the Caatinga biomes, where the human population is reliant on their pollination and honey production for economic growth.[2]

Colony growth[edit]

Perennial colonies of Melipona subnitida are composed of several hundred to 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.[1] 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.[5] 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.[7]

Colony decline[edit]

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.[2] Other causes of colony decline are extraction of colonies for profit use, or from deforestation, thus destroying the homes of this species.[8]


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.[3]

Human importance[edit]

Honey production[edit]

Specific colonies of M. subnitida are known to produce up to 6 liters of honey per year in the Caatinga region of Brazil. 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.[9] This species is able to help the population in this area gain a profitable industry on the condition that predatory extraction and deforestation are minimal, which is the main cause of the decline of M. subnitida.[8]


The pollen collected by M. subnitida has been discovered to contain high protein content and is extremely rich in amino acids, unlike pollen collected by other stingless bee species, or the honey bee Apis mellifera; the pollen collected by this species also contains the sugar mannitol rather than glucose and fructose, though researchers have not identified the plants from which this pollen is being obtained.[9]


Capturing or destroying existing colonies of M. subnitida is forbidden in Brazil. Artificial traps can be maintained by verified beekeepers as long as the bees form the new colonies on their own accord rather than being trapped.[8][9] New colonies can be formed by division of already existing captive colonies, which can be done up to four times a year if conditions are adequate and enough food is artificially provided, avoiding the bees to expend too much effort to find food for themselves.


  1. ^ a b c d e f 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)". Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel. doi:10.1007/s00040-004-0781-x. 
  2. ^ a b c 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. doi:10.1007/s00114-013-1123-5. 
  3. ^ a b Maia-Silva, Camila; Hrncir, Michael; Koedam, Dirk; Machado, Renato Jose Pires (21 November 2012). "Out with the garbage: the parasitic strategy of the mantisfly Plega hagenella mass-infesting colonies of the eusocial bee Melipona subnitida in northeastern Brazil". Naturwissenschaften. doi:10.1007/s00114-012-0994-1. 
  4. ^ "Melipona subnitida Ducke, 1911". ITIS Report. Retrieved 15 September 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Velthuis, Hayo H. W.; Koedam, Dirk; Imperatriz-Fonesca, Vera L. (2005). "The males of Melipona and other stingless bees, and their mothers". Apidologie. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Parra, Guiomar Nates; Roubik, David W. (1990). "Sympatry among Subspecies of Melipona favosa in Colombia and a Taxonomic Revision". Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society. Kansas (Central States) Entomological Society. 63 (1): 200–203. JSTOR 25085163. 
  7. ^ Contel, E. P. B.; KErr, W. E. (15 August 1976). "Origin of Males in Melipona Subnitida Estimated From Data of An Isozymic Polymorphic System" (PDF). Genetica. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c 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. Retrieved 17 September 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c 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. Retrieved 14 September 2015.