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Species Diversity and External Nest Characteristics of Stingless Bees in Meliponiculture

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Stingless bee farming is a new and potential booming industry in Malaysia. A study was conducted on stingless bee species preferred by meliponiculturists in Malaysia. External nest characteristics of the stingless bee species were also described. Sampling of 161 stingless bee colonies at a bee farm in Kelantan, Malaysia (06°07’N, 102°19’E) revealed five species of stingless bees and one unidentified species. The species included Trigona itama, Trigona thoracica, Trigona terminata, Trigona laeviceps, and Hypotrigona scintillans and one unidentified meliponid that accounted for 83.2%, 11.2%, 2.5%, 1.9%, 0.6% and 0.6%, respectively. The external nest characteristics, including the height of tree trunk, the trunk circumference at the top and bottom, and the height of the entrance tube from the bottom, were measured together with the size and description of entrance tube for each species. It was apparent that of 17-32 known species of stingless bees in Malaysia, only T. itama and T. thoracica were mostly used in meliponiculture.
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Pertanika J. Trop. Agric. Sci. 37 (3): 293 - 298 (2014)
ISSN: 1511-3701 © Universiti Putra Malaysia Press
TROPICAL AGRICULTURAL SCIENCE
Journal homepage: http://www.pertanika.upm.edu.my/
Article history:
Received: 11 September 2013
Accepted: 4 April 2014
ARTICLE INFO
E-mail addresses:
caleyk27@hotmail.com (Kelly, N.),
farisya_1991@yahoo.com (Farisya, M. S. N.),
kumara_k2001@yahoo.com (Kumara, T. K.),
marcela.fun@gmail.com (Marcela, P.)
* Corresponding author
Short Communication
Species Diversity and External Nest Characteristics of Stingless
Bees in Meliponiculture
Kelly, N.1, Farisya, M. S. N.1, Kumara, T. K.1* and Marcela, P.2
1Faculty of Agro Based Industry, Jeli Campus, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, Locked Bag No.100,
17600 Jeli, Kelantan, Malaysia
2School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 Penang, Malaysia
ABSTRACT
Stingless bee farming is a new and potential booming industry in Malaysia. A study
was conducted on stingless bee species preferred by meliponiculturists in Malaysia.
External nest characteristics of the stingless bee species were also described. Sampling
of 161 stingless bee colonies at a bee farm in Kelantan, Malaysia (06°07’N, 102°19’E)
revealed ve species of stingless bees and one unidentied species. The species included
Trigona itama, Trigona thoracica, Trigona terminata, Trigona laeviceps, and Hypotrigona
scintillans and one unidentied meliponid that accounted for 83.2%, 11.2%, 2.5%, 1.9%,
0.6% and 0.6%, respectively. The external nest characteristics, including the height of tree
trunk, the trunk circumference at the top and bottom, and the height of the entrance tube
from the bottom, were measured together with the size and description of entrance tube for
each species. It was apparent that of 17-32 known species of stingless bees in Malaysia,
only T. itama and T. thoracica were mostly used in meliponiculture.
Keywords: Entrance, Trigona, honey, meliponiculture, nest, stingless bee
INTRODUCTION
Stingless bee beekeeping is known as
meliponiculture. This activity, which
is generally undertaken by traditional
communities, has local characteristics
according to regional and traditional
knowledge. In Australia, interest in
production and marketing of Australian
Kelly, N., Farisya, M. S. N., Kumara, T. K. and Marcela, P.
294 Pertanika J. Trop. Agric. Sci. 37 (3) 293 - 298 (2014)
honey is expanding. Although the total
annual honey production in Australia is
currently small (i.e., with probably less than
100kg), there is potential for rapid growth.
At present, the market wholesale price of
honey is about AU $50 per kg. In Asia,
stingless bee beekeeping for pollination
purpose is only beginning to take root
in southern Asia, India and in SE Asia
including Malaysia and the Philippines
(Cortopassi-Laurino et al., 2006).
Stingless bee farmers in the state of
Kelantan, Malaysia, commercialize three
types of stingless bee products, namely
honey, bee bread and propolis. The current
market price for stingless bee honey is
RM35 per 300g, RM30 for 200g of bee
bread and RM25 for 10ml of propolis,
depending upon consumers’ demands. At
the moment, however, the stingless bee
species of economic value and its external
nest characteristics in Malaysia remain
unexplored. Hence, this paper explores
the subject matter mentioned and provides
measurements of the extracted tree trunks
from the forest with stingless bee colony
in it.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Sampling was done at a bee farm located in
the state of Kelantan, Malaysia (06°07’N,
102°19’E). Measurements of the height
of tree trunks, height of the entrance tube
from bottom, size and shape of the entrance
tube were documented. In this study, ve
to ten specimens of stingless bees were
caught in individual plastic bag [34.5cm
(h) x 24.6cm (w)] for each colony and they
were brought back to Biology Laboratory,
Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, Malaysia.
At the laboratory, the bee specimens were
killed using chloroform, pinned and oven
dried at 40°C overnight. Once preserved,
the specimens were identified with the
taxonomy keys provided by Schwatz (1939),
Sakagami et al. (1990) and taxonomic
revisions by Rasmussen (2008).
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
A total of 161 colonies of stingless bees were
measured and documented (Fig.1). Five
species of stingless bee and an unidentied
species were collected during the sampling.
The ve species were Trigona (Geniotrigona)
thoracica, Trigona (Heterotrigona) itama,
Trigona (Lepidotrigona) terminata, Trigona
(Lisotrigona) scintillans and Trigona
(Tetragonula) laeviceps. In particular, T.
itama were highly preferred by bee farmers
and this species contributed 83.2% of the
total colonies in the farm, followed by
T. thoracica (11.2%) (Table 1). The two
species contributed 94.4% of the total
stingless bee species in the farm. Stingless
bees could be found throughout the world
with more than 500 species estimated
(Heard, 1988; Ruttner, 1988). In Malaysia,
the number of stingless bee species varies
between 17 to 32 species depending on the
study areas (Norowi, 2010; Salim, et al.,
2012; Schwarz, 1939). However, within
the diverse species in Malaysia, only two
species were highly sought after by bee
farmers for meliponiculture purposes.
Species Diversity and External Nest Characteristics of Stingless Bees in Meliponiculture
295Pertanika J. Trop. Agric. Sci. 37 (3): 293 - 298 (2014)
TABLE 1
Diversity of stingless bees in the farm
Species Colonies
(n) (%)
Trigona (Geniotrigona) thoracica 18 (11.2)
Trigona (Heterotrigona) itama 134 (83.2)
Trigona (Lepidotrigona) terminata 4 (2.5)
Hyporigona (Lisotrigona) scintillans 1 (0.6)
Trigona (Tetragonula) laeviceps 3 (1.9)
Unidentied 1 (0.6)
Total 161 (100)
Bee farmers extracted wild colonies
nesting in the tree trunks before they
transferred the colony into a bee box and
subsequently sold. Each species of the
stingless bees has specic nest requirements
according to their sizes, population and
habitat quality (Fonseca, 2012). Thus, the
tree trunks represent the preferences of the
species towards specic nesting site. It was
recorded that T. thoracica and T. laeviceps
preferred tree trunk circumferences ranging
from 82 cm to 129 cm, whereas T. itama
and T. terminata preferred tree trunk
circumferences ranging between 71 cm
and to 164 cm (Table 2). Majority of the
tree trunks are of rubbers trees with a few
forest hardwood trees. Extraction of the
wild colonies requires experience and a
good estimation of the location of the brood
within the tree trunks to avoid damages to
the brood. To avoid damages to the brood
during extraction, data on nest entrance and
height of tree trunk from this study could be
used as a reference point to cut or fell the
tree trunk (Table 2). In this study, the nest
Fig.1: Tree trunks with stingless bee colonies
Kelly, N., Farisya, M. S. N., Kumara, T. K. and Marcela, P.
296 Pertanika J. Trop. Agric. Sci. 37 (3) 293 - 298 (2014)
entrance of the stingless bee was found to be
different according to the genus (Fig.2). The
functions of the nest entrances are related to
defense, foraging (Biesmeijer et al., 2005)
and physio-chemical regulation (Roubik,
2006). The narrow tube can be closed
with resin or cerumen or externally coated
with droplets of fresh resin where invaders
like ants may be halted (Wittmann, 1989;
Camargo, 1984). Among the ve species, T.
thoracica was found to form mount-shape
entrance with the widest entrance compared
to all other species. However, the structure
of the nest entrance or the thickness of
the resin enclosing the internal nest are
inuenced by the age of nest, bee genetics
and micro environment including predators,
parasites, symbionts, rain, wind and sun
(Roubik, 2006).
TABLE 2
External nest characteristics of stingless bees by species
Species
Mean ± s.d (cm)
Height of tree
trunk
Circumference of
the tree trunk (top)
Circumference of the
tree trunk (bottom)
Height of entrance
from bottom
T. thoracica 108.7±43.7 105.3±23.7 111.6±17.5 54.7±29.8
T. itama 86.2±20.2 96.3±24.9 100.4±27.1 45.8±21.1
T. terminata 102.3±22.1 108.5±34.4 125±39.3 44.8±34.6
H. scintillans 45 69 110 45
T. laeviceps 70.3±42.2 84.3±1.52 101.7±18.9 37.7±37.8
TABLE 3
Size and descriptions of entrance tube of the sampled stingless bees
Species Entrance tube (mean ± s.d) (cm) Shape Color Rigidity
Length Width Tube Length
T. itama 1.53 ± 0.47 2.04± 0.69 7.84± 7.39 F, R Br, Lb S, H
T. throracica 3.97 ± 1.29 4± 0.92 7.38± 3.65 MBr,
Bl H
T. terminata 1.84± 0.38 1.96± 0.1 7± 2.02 FLb S
T. laeviceps 1.85± 0.35 2.75± 0.75 4.25± 1.75 FBl S,H
H. scintillans NA* RBr S
Entrance shape: F= funnel, M= mount, R= round-ringed; Color: Br=Brown, Bl=Black, Lb=Light Brown ; Rigidity:
S=soft, H=hard;
* NA: Not Available; entrance was accidentally destroyed
Species Diversity and External Nest Characteristics of Stingless Bees in Meliponiculture
297Pertanika J. Trop. Agric. Sci. 37 (3): 293 - 298 (2014)
Fig.2: Shape of the entrance of the stingless bees’ nest. A - Funnel shape entrance of T. itama; B - Round
ringed entrance of T. itama; C - Entrance in shape of mount (T. thoracica), D - Funnel shape entrance of
T. terminata
CONCLUSION
From this study, ve species of stingless
bees and one unidentied bee species were
sampled. The species were T. itama, T.
thoracica, T. terminata, T. laeviceps, and
H. scintillans. Meliponiculture in Malaysia
is limited to two species of stingless bees,
namely T. itama and T. thoracica. Although
the extraction of wild is not sustainable in
the long term, it is the authors’ hope that
in the future, colony propagation will be a
good alternative with the expansion of the
knowledge and research on the biology of
stingless bees.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors would like to thank Mr. Razip
for his time and willingness to accommodate
us while undertaking this study at his
farm. This study received the financial
support from research grant R/RAGS/A
07.00/00760A/002/2012/000092.
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... Queen and male bees are fertile bees, while worker bees are sterile female bees. Queen bees play an important role regulating the work system in hives (Kelly et al. 2014;Roopa et al. 2015) and producing new tillers, male drones and workers. Worker bees collect food in the form of pollen and nectar, as well as saps for hive building (Couvillon 2012;Kelly et al. 2014;Jaffé et al. 2015;Hrncir et al. 2016;Jacob et al. 2019). ...
... Queen bees play an important role regulating the work system in hives (Kelly et al. 2014;Roopa et al. 2015) and producing new tillers, male drones and workers. Worker bees collect food in the form of pollen and nectar, as well as saps for hive building (Couvillon 2012;Kelly et al. 2014;Jaffé et al. 2015;Hrncir et al. 2016;Jacob et al. 2019). ...
... Wratten et al. (2012) stated that the diversity of stingless bees is affected by the abundance of flower and plant types that serve as food sources in the environment. Kelly et al. (2014) reported that rural habitats is the biotopes located in areas where agriculture is practiced, this will result in a high diversity of insects. Rural residential areas generally have large yards, and the average size of rural houses is greater than 100 m 2 . ...
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Trianto M, Purwanto H. 2021. Diversity, abundance, and distribution patterns of stingless bees (Hymenoptera: Meliponini) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Biodiversitas 23: 695-702. Stingless bees (Hymenoptera: Meliponini) are eusocial insects with high economic value in terms of their honey and propolis yield. The bees are widely distributed in tropical regions, including Indonesia. This study aimed to estimate the diversity, abundance, and distribution pattern of stingless bees in the Special Region of Yogyakarta Province, Indonesia. The following seven species of stingless bees have been identified in previous research: Tetragonula laeviceps, T. iridipennis, T. biroi, T. sapiens, T. sarawakensis, Heterotrigona itama, and Lepidotrigona terminata. The current work determined the scores of diversity (H’: 0.98), abundance (N: 14.0 ind/m2), and distribution pattern (id: 0.51) of stingless bees in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The results were analyzed and then subjected to principal component analysis to determine the dominant characteristics on the basis of the environmental parameters that influence the presence of stingless bees in three habitat types in the Special Region of Yogyakarta Province, Indonesia. Results revealed that temperature is one such environmental parameter affecting the presence of stingless bees in the Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
... Homotrigona apicalis (Smith, 1857) is characterized by several evident morphological features compared with Tetragonula bees (Salim et al. 2012;Kelly et al. 2014;Samsudin et al. 2018). In H. itama, the gastral tergite and sternite are completely blackish brown; the frons and clypeus are also completely black but fully covered with thick white hairs. ...
... Nest entrance properties of stingless bees are related to many factors, such as age of bee genetics, nest age, and the microenvironment, such as rainfall, predation, sunlight, microclimate, parasites, and symbionts. The size of nest entrance of stingless bees also varies (Kelly et al. 2014). ...
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Purwanto H, Soesilohadi RCH, Trianto M. 2022. Stingless bees from meliponiculture in South Kalimantan, Indonesia. Biodiversitas 23: 1254-1266. Kalimantan Island has many species of stingless bees that are widespread throughout the province. However, their morphology, morphometry, and nest structure characteristics have not been documented comprehensively. This paper described the morphological characters, morphometric measurements, nest entrance, and brood cell characteristics of stingless bees from meliponiculture in South Kalimantan, Indonesia. Ten stingless bee species were identified based on their morphological features:. Principal component analysis was performed to identify the grouping characters and thus determine their diagnostic characters. Furthermore, the shape, diameter, length, ornamentation, and color of the nest entrance and the arrangement, cells, and color of brood cells were observed. This study is the first to report high variations in the type of entrance opening and arrangement of brood cells for stingless bee species, which are abundant in South Kalimantan.
... were reported. The most popular species for rearing and having commercial values include Geniotrigona thoracica (Smith), Heterotrigona itama (Cockerell), Lepidotrigona terminata (Smith), Tetragonula fuscobalteata (Cameron), and Tetraponera laeviceps [64]. ...
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The neuroprotective potential of stingless bee honey (SBH) is still to be documented from numerous studies including that of its effect on cerebrovascular event. This review should guide stroke rehabilitation specialties to a high understanding of the overall circuit changes post-stroke, the clinical relevance of this change in stroke to cognitive impairment and dementia, and SBH as a supplementation in modern stroke rehabilitation in progresses. However, the potential of SBH as a supplementation therapy and highlights treatment to induced plasticity for post-stroke vascular cogni-tive impairment (PSVCI) remains largely unexplored. This Chapter attempts to deliber-ate on recent evidence that highlight the therapeutic properties of honey and SBH, the features of PSVCI, and proposing the plausible mechanism of action for SBH as a supplementation during stroke rehabilitation that could halt the progression of PSVCI. It is hoped that such an approach could complement the existing evidence-based stroke care, and which will help in the development of future direction of brain plasticity to delay the progression of cognitive impairment post-stroke. Keywords: stingless bee honey, plasticity, stroke, post-stroke vascular cognitive impairment, rehabilitation, stroke survivors
... were reported. The most popular species for rearing and having commercial values include Geniotrigona thoracica (Smith), Heterotrigona itama (Cockerell), Lepidotrigona terminata (Smith), Tetragonula fuscobalteata (Cameron), and Tetraponera laeviceps [64]. ...
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The neuroprotective potential of stingless bee honey (SBH) is still to be documented from numerous studies including that of its effect on cerebrovascular event. This review should guide stroke rehabilitation specialties to a high understanding of the overall circuit changes post-stroke, the clinical relevance of this change in stroke to cognitive impairment and dementia, and SBH as a supplementation in modern stroke rehabilitation in progresses. However, the potential of SBH as a supplementation therapy and highlights treatment to induced plasticity for post-stroke vascular cogni-tive impairment (PSVCI) remains largely unexplored. This Chapter attempts to deliberate on recent evidence that highlight the therapeutic properties of honey and SBH, the features of PSVCI, and proposing the plausible mechanism of action for SBH as a supplementation during stroke rehabilitation that could halt the progression of PSVCI. It is hoped that such an approach could complement the existing evidence-based stroke care, and which will help in the development of future direction of brain plasticity to delay the progression of cognitive impairment post-stroke.
... Tetragonula is the genus of stingless bees with the widest range across the Indo-Pacific, and includes species of a small size, typically with five hamuli on the hind wing, with forewing vein M straight and ending bluntly, and with the mesoscutellum projecting posteriorly (Rasmussen et al. 2017;Engel et al. 2018). The genus has been reported from Continental Asia and Sri Lanka (Sakagami 1978), Southeast Asia (Sakagami & Inoue 1985;Engel et al. 2017), the Philippines (Schwarz 1939;Starr & Sakagami 1987), Malaysia (Schwarz 1939;Salim et al. 2012;Kelly et al. 2014), Australia (Dollin et al. 1997;Halcroft et al. 2013), Thailand (Boontop et al. 2008;Engel et al. 2017), and India (Rasmussen 2013;Rathor et al. 2013). In Indonesia, Tetragonula has been reported from Sulawesi (Schwarz 1939), East Kalimantan (Syafrizal et al. 2012;, West Sumatera (D.. , Bali (N.S. , Java, Borneo, Ambon, Moluccas, and Papua (Schwarz 1939;Kahono et al. 2018). ...
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... Tetragonula is the genus of stingless bees with the widest range across the Indo-Pacific, and includes species of a small size, typically with five hamuli on the hind wing, with forewing vein M straight and ending bluntly, and with the mesoscutellum projecting posteriorly (Rasmussen et al. 2017;Engel et al. 2018). The genus has been reported from Continental Asia and Sri Lanka (Sakagami 1978), Southeast Asia (Sakagami & Inoue 1985;Engel et al. 2017), the Philippines (Schwarz 1939;Starr & Sakagami 1987), Malaysia (Schwarz 1939;Salim et al. 2012;Kelly et al. 2014), Australia (Dollin et al. 1997;Halcroft et al. 2013), Thailand (Boontop et al. 2008;Engel et al. 2017), and India (Rasmussen 2013;Rathor et al. 2013). In Indonesia, Tetragonula has been reported from Sulawesi (Schwarz 1939), East Kalimantan (Syafrizal et al. 2012;, West Sumatera (D.. , Bali (N.S. , Java, Borneo, Ambon, Moluccas, and Papua (Schwarz 1939;Kahono et al. 2018). ...
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S urvey of stingless bee diversity, nesting preferences, and forage plants was conducted in West Halmahera across 134 collection sites. This research was aimed to determine species diversity, nesting preference and habitat, and domin a nt for a ge pl a nts. There were three species found, the most common species being Tetragonula clypearis (Friese), followed by T. sapiens (Cockerell), and last T. biroi (Friese). Based on the morphology characters of each species, the key identification was provided. The most colonies were found in public houses (80.39%) , followed by plantations (13.73%), and the community forest (5.88%), respectively. Most colonies nested in stone cavities, parts of the ho us es, wooden materials, tree trunks, logs, tree roots, bamboo, and sometimes iron cavities. The forage plants consist of forage plantation, crops, fruits, vegetables, ornamental flowers, wild plants and shrubs. The three species found were new record in West Halmahera. Bees lived in various hollow places that were safe for their colony. Bees made use of a variety of flowering plants and secrete resins around the nest site.
... These phenolic and flavonoid compounds may also have antibacterial qualities, but other components such as hydrogen peroxide and non-peroxide components, such as its high sugar concentration and low pH, could have similar qualities [9]. In Malaysia, the most reared stingless bee species are Heterotrigona itama and Geniotrigona thoracica, while in Australia, Tetragonula carbonaria and Tetragonula hockingsi species are kept mainly by beekeepers in the state of Queensland [10,11]. ...
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