Size variation in eggs laid by normal-sized and miniature queens of Plebeia remota (Holmberg) (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini)


  • Márcia de Fátima Ribeiro Embrapa Semiárido
  • Pérsio de Souza Santos Filho Universidad de São Paulo (USP)



miniature queens, eggs’ morphometry, stingless bees, Meliponini


Miniature stingless bee queens have been studied concerning frequency distribution, production and egg laying performance. This study aimed to investigate size variation in eggs laid by Plebeia remota (Holmberg) queens and whether it is due to differences in queen size or colony conditions. A sample of 10 queens (8 of typical size and 2 miniature) was measured morphometrically (head width, interorbital distance, and intertegular distance) as well the eggs they laid (length, width and volume). Initially, eggs were analyzed when laid by queens in their own colonies. Significant differences were found for length, width and volume of eggs considering the total group of queens or both queen morphotypes. However, no significant correlations were found between queen size and egg size. Afterwards, two experiments were performed to evaluate the influence of colony conditions on egg size. Firstly, we shifted the queens from their original colonies (i.e., a typical queen was placed into a miniature queen colony, and vice-versa). Secondly, they were put into another colony (both types of queens, one each time, were placed on a third colony, a ‘host colony’). In all situations, both queen morphotypes laid eggs of similar or different sizes than before, often with significant differences. The results indicate that variation in egg size is due to conditions imposed to queens in the colony (e.g. queen feeding status, number of cells available to be oviposited), and not due to variation in queen body size.

Author Biography

Pérsio de Souza Santos Filho, Universidad de São Paulo (USP)

Depto. Ecologia Geral


Beig, D. (1971). Desenvolvimento embrionário de abelhas operárias de Trigona (Scaptotrigona) postica. Latreille (Hymenoptera, Meliponinae). Arq. Zool., 21(4): 179-134. doi

Benthem, F.D.J.Van; Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L. & Velthuis, H.H.W. (1995). Biology of the stingless bee Plebeia remota (Holmberg): observations and evolutionary implications. Insect. Soc., 42: 71-87. doi: 10.1007/BF01245700

Drummond, P.M.; Zucchi, R. & Sakagami, S.F. (1996). Oviposition behavior of the Stingless Bees XVIII. Plebeia (Plebeia) remota with a preliminary ethological comparison of some Plebeia taxa (Apidae, Meliponinae). B. Fac. Ed., Ibaraki Univ. (Nat. Sci.), 45: 31-55. doi:

Drummond, P.M.; Zucchi, R. & Oldroyd, B.P.. (2000). Description of the cell provisioning and oviposition process of seven species of Plebeia Schwarz (Apidae, Meliponini) with notes on their phylogeny and taxonomy. Insect. Soc., 47: 99-112. doi: 10.1007/PL00001703

Gençer, H. V. & Woyke, J. (2006). Eggs from Apis mellifera caucasica laying workers are larger than from queens. J. Apicult. Res., 45(4): 173-179. doi: 10.3896/IBRA.

Henderson, C. E. (1992). Variability in the size of emerging drones and of drone and worker eggs in honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies. J. Apicult. Res., 31(3/4): 114-118. doi:

Katzav-Gozansky, T.; Soroker, V.; Kamer, J.; Schulz, C. M.; Francke, W. & Hefetz, A. (2003). Ultrastructural and chemical characterization of egg surface of honeybee worker and queen-laid eggs. Chemoecology, 13: 129-134. doi: 10.1007/s00049-003-0238-0

Koedam, D.; Velthausz, P.H.; Krift, T.V.D.; Dohmen, M.R. & Sommeijer, M. J.. (1996). Morphology of reproductive and trophic eggs and their controlled release by workers in Trigona (Tetragonisca) angustula Illiger (Apidae, Meliponinae). Physiol. Entomol., 21: 289-296. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3032.1996.tb00867.x

Koedam, D.; Velthuis, H. H. W.; Dohmen, M. R. & Imperatriz-Fonseca, V. L. (2001). The behaviour of laying workers and the morphology and viability of their eggs in Melipona bicolor bicolor. Physiol. Entomol., 26: 254-259. doi: 10.1046/j.0307-6962.2001.00241.x

Lacerda, L.M. & Simões, Z.L.P. (2006) a. Ovos produzidos por rainhas e operárias de Scaptotrigona depilis (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponina): morfometria e aspectos relacionados. Iheringia, Sér. Zool., 96(1): 89-93. doi: 10.1590/S0073-47212006000100016

Lacerda, L.M. & Simões, Z.L.P. (2006) b. Effects of internal conditions on the size of eggs laid by queens of Scaptotrigona depilis (Moure, 1942) (Apidae, Meliponinae). Sociobiology, 47(1): 85-97. doi: 10.13102.

Pereira, R. A.; Morais, M. M.; Gioli, L. D.; Nascimento, F. S., Rossi, M. A. & Bego, L. R. (2006). Comparative morphology of reproductive and trophic eggs in some Melipona bees (Apidae, Meliponini). Braz. J. Morphological Sci., 23 (3-4): 349-354. doi:

Ribeiro, M.F. (2002). Does the queen of Plebeia remota (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponini) stimulate her workers to start cell construction after winter? Insect. Soc., 49: 38-40. doi: 10.1007/s00040-002-8276-0

Ribeiro, M.F. & Alves, D. de A. (2001). Size variation in Schwarziana quadripunctata queens (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponinae). Rev. Etologia, 3(1): 59-65. doi:

Ribeiro, M. de F.; Santos-Filho, P. S. de & Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L. (2003). Exceptional high queen production in the Brazilian stingless bee Plebeia remota. Stud. Neotrop. Fauna & Envir., 38(2): 111-114. doi: 10.1076/snfe.

Ribeiro, M.F.; Santos-Filho, P. S. de & Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L. (2006) a. Size variation and egg laying performance in Plebeia remota queens (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponinae). Apidologie, 37: 653-664. doi: 10.1051/apido:2006046

Ribeiro, M.F.; Wenseleers, T.; Santos-Filho, P. S. de & Alves, D.A. (2006) b. Miniature queens in stingless bees: basic facts and evolutionary hypotheses. Apidologie, 37: 191-206. doi: 10.1051/apido:2006023

Sommeijer, M.J.; Zeijl, M. Van & Dohmen, M.R. (1984). Morphological differences between worker-laid eggs from a queenright colony and a queenless colony of Melipona rufiventris paraensis (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Entomol. Berichten, 44(1): 91-95. doi:

Velthuis, H.H.W. & Sommeijer, M.J. (1991). Morphogenetic Hormones in Caste polymorphism in Stingless Bees. In A. P. Gupta, A.P. (Eds.), Mophogenetic Hormones of Arthropods (pp. 346-382). News Brunswick: Rutgers Univ. Press.

Wenseleers T., Ratnieks, F. L.W., Ribeiro, M. F., Alves, D.A. & Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L. (2005). Working-class royalty: bees beat the caste system. Biol. Lett., 1, 125-128. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2004.0281

Wheeler, D. (1996). The role of nourishment in oogenesis. Annu. Rev. Entomol., 41: 407-431. doi: 10.1146/annurev.en.41.010196.002203

Woyke, J. (1994). Comparison of the size of the eggs from Apis mellifera L. queens and laying workers. Apidologie, 25: 179-187. doi: 10.1051/apido:19940206.

Woyke, J. (1998). Size change of Apis mellifera eggs during the incubation period. J. Apicult. Res., 37(4): 239-246.

Woyke, J. & Wongsiri, S. (1992). Occurrence and size of laying worker eggs in Apis florea colonies. J. Apicult. Res., 31(3/4): 124-127.

Woyke, J.; Chanchao, C.; Wongsiri, S; Wilde, J. & Wilde, M. (2003). Size of eggs from queens of three Asian species and laying workers of Apis cerana. J. Apicult. Science, 47 (2): 57-71.

Zar, J.H. (1999). Biostatistical Analysis. 4th ed. Prentice Hall, 663 p.




How to Cite

Ribeiro, M. de F., & Santos Filho, P. de S. (2014). Size variation in eggs laid by normal-sized and miniature queens of Plebeia remota (Holmberg) (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini). Sociobiology, 61(4), 483–489.



Research Article - Bees