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Importance of corbiculate bees in plant protection and quarantine

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Corbiculate bees belong to the family Apidae, subfamily Apinae and comprised of the genera in the tribes Apini (honey bees), Meliponini (stingless bees), Bombini (bumble bees), and Euglossini (orchid bees). Some species in the genus Apis and Bombus are known to carry parasites and diseases that can be transferred among co-generic species such as honey bees (Apis mellifera L) and our native bumble bees (Bombus spp., around 50 species in North America). Corbiculate bees are mostly social to different degrees depending of the tribe and genera, and some of which have evolved to be clepto or social parasites of other corbiculate bees. In addition, some are good pollinators of introduced weeds or have contributed to the decline/ disappearance of native species by competition for nesting and food resources.
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Page 4 IDENTIFIER NOTES OF INTEREST NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 2011
Corbiculate bees belong to the fam-
ily Apidae, subfamily Apinae and
comprised of the genera in the tribes
Apini (honey bees), Meliponini (sting-
less bees), Bombini (bumble bees),
and Euglossini (orchid bees). Some
species in the genus Apis and Bom-
bus are known to carry parasites and
diseases that can be transferred among
co-generic species such as honey bees
(Apis mellifera L) and our native bumble
bees (Bombus spp., around 50 species
in North America). Corbiculate bees
are mostly social to different degrees
depending of the tribe and genera, and
some of which have evolved to be clepto
or social parasites of other corbiculate
bees. In addition, some are good pol-
linators of introduced weeds or have
contributed to the decline/ disappear-
ance of native species by competition
for nesting and food resources. ese
are just a few of the reasons why this
particular group of bees of importance
to PPQ and one of the main targets for
quarantine actions.
e purpose of this note is to provide
PPQ Identifiers with information
regarding the biology and taxonomy of
corbiculate bee genera and to facilitate
their work in the field.
Taxonomy and systematics of the
corbiculate bees
Until recently, corbiculate bees were
considered to be the only members of
the family Apidae, and all other bees in
the family as it is currently understood
were part of the paraphyletic family An-
thophoridae (this family name is in the
AQAS/ PestID database, but it should
be eliminated).
Numerous phylogenetic analysis
(morphological and molecular) sup-
port the monophyly of the corbiculate
bees. Although the recognition of the
corbitulate Apidae as a family would
require the recognition of numerous
other families (and violating stability),
it is convenient to have a term for these
four tribes because of their evolutionary
relationship to one another (Michener
2007). e evolutionary relationships
among the tribes of corbiculate bees are
still a matter of debate because different
datasets provide different phylogenetic
hypothesis.
Most of the characters that are shared
among corbiculate bees are those as-
sociated with the pollen carrying and
manipulating structures and with the
mouth parts of their immature stages.
e presence of the corbicula in the
outer side of the hind tibia (which
is often concave and enclosed by
fringes of setae or scopae) is per-
haps the most distinctive character
among females of non-parasitic
genera and one that can help with
the identification of bees in this
group (see figure 1).
Biology of corbiculate bees
Most of the the corbiculate group
are phytophagous (feed on pollen and
nectar) and polylectic (polyphagous),
except for some male Euglossini that are
specialists in the species of plants they
visit for oils to manufacture their phero-
mones. Some genera of corbiculate bees
are social parasites (i.e. Lestrimelitta in
the Meliponini and Bombus, subgenus
Psythirus, in the Bombini) or cleptopar-
asites (i.e. Exaerete, and Aglae both in
the Euglossini) of other corbiculate bees,
and some species are necrophagous (i.e.
the Trigona hypogea species group in the
Meliponini).
In general, corbiculate bees construct
their nests in cavities, and build up
their cells from wax produced in special
glands located in the metasoma (tergum
and sternum in Bombini, tergum in
Meliponini, sternum in Apini, and at
the base of T6 in Euglossini). is is in
contrast to most species of bees, which
dig their nests in the substrate (soil or
wood).
Most of the corbiculate bees are social
(highly or eusocial in the Apini and
Meliponini, primitively eusocial in the
Bombini and communal in Euglossini)
and are the subject of studies in the
evolution of social behavior.
Importance for PPQ Identifiers
For PPQ Entomologists working in the
field (identifiers, survey specialists, and
safeguarding specialists) it is important
to recognize bees (Apoidea: Anthophila)
because they are of quarantine impor-
tance and require action at U.S. ports
of entry. Corbiculate bees in particular
are of paramount importance because
(being part of the same evolutionary
group as our honey bees and bumble
e Corbiculate Bees (Honey Bees and Relatives) and the Importance for PPQ
by Allan H. Smith-Pardo1 and Michael S. Engel2
1 PPQ Area Identifier and National Apiodea Specialist, San Francisco, CA 2 Senior Curator and Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Figure 1. Hind leg of a
corbiclate bee showing
the corbicula.
DECEMBER 2011 IDENTIFIER NOTES OF INTEREST NEWSLETTER Page 5
bees) they are carriers
of parasites and diseases
that have the potential
to devastate our native/
naturalized bees (i.e.
Nosema bombi, Tropilae-
laps clareae, Varroa, etc.).
In addition, corbiculate
bees, by their social
nature are better at
colonizing and dispers-
ing, and can become
serious introduced pests,
displacing native or
naturalized species (i.e.
Apis cerana in Australia,
Bombus terrestris in Asia
and Europe, etc.).
e identification of
Corbiculate bees
Adult females of cor-
biculate bees can be
distinguished from others bees by hav-
ing the scopa restricted to the hind tibia
and basitarsus (corbicula). Some other
characters that can be used to identify
corbiculate bees include the presence
of wax glands in the metasoma, the
absence of basitibial and pygidial plates
(also absent in males), the reduction of
the maxillary palpus, and the inability
to excavate their nests in substrates,
among others.
Immature corbiculate bees have lips at
the end of the salivary openings and
are able to spin a cocoon. Internally,
larvae of corbiculate bees possess salivary
glands formed by many alveoli, hypo-
pharyngeal glands that are attenuate and
by Allan H. Smith-Pardo1 and Michael S. Engel2
1 PPQ Area Identifier and National Apiodea Specialist, San Francisco, CA 2 Senior Curator and Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
usually pedunculate in shape, and tho-
racic salivary glands made up of short,
simple tubes.
We have also prepared taxonomic keys
for the tribes and species of corbiculate
Apinae in an extended version of this
manuscript (draft of a forthcoming
publication) in cooperation with Dr.
Michael Engel from the University of
Kansas, Natural History Museum and
Biodiversity Research Center (available
in the NIS- identifiers website at :
Corbiculate Bees and PPQ Importance.
References
Engel MS, Hinojosa-Díaz IA, Rasnitsyn
AP (2009) A honey bee from the Mio-
cene of Nevada and the biogeography
of Apis (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Apini).
Proceedings of the California Academy
of Sciences, Series 4 60(3): 23–38.
Michener CD (2007) e Bees of the
World [2nd Edition]. Johns Hopkins
University Press, Baltimore.
Figure 1. Modern honey bee diversity (all bees are workers and to the same
scale). A) Apis mellifera Linnaeus; B) A. koschevnikovi Enderlein; C) A. ni-
grocincta Smith; D) A. cerana Fabricius E) A. dorsata Fabricius; F) A. florea
Fabricius; G) A. andreniformis Smith. Photos couresy of Michael Engel from Engel et al. (2009).
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
The first fossil honey bee (Apini: Apis Linnaeus) from the New World is described and figured, expanding the former native range of the tribe Apini into the Western Hemisphere. Apis nearctica sp. nov., is represented by a single female worker pre-served in paper shale from the Middle Miocene of Stewart Valley, Nevada. The species belongs to the armbrusteri species group (= Cascapis Engel) and is most sim-ilar to the extinct species A. armbrusteri Zeuner from the Miocene of southwestern Germany. The species is described and its affinities discussed, as well as its implica-tions for our understanding of honey bee and corbiculate bee biogeography and evo-lution.
The Bees of the World
  • C D Michener
Michener CD (2007) The Bees of the World [2nd Edition].