First Report of Nesting Habits, Nest Architecture and Foraging Behaviour of the Stingless bee, Tetragonula (Tetragonula) ruficornis (Smith) (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini) from India


  • Basavaraj N. Hadimani Division of Entomology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, India
  • Kumaranag K. M. Division of Entomology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, India
  • Debjani Dey Division of Entomology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, India



Nesting substrate, Meliponiculture, Pollen foragers, Meteorological parameters, Foraging activity, Pollination


The present study aimed to understand nesting habits, nest architecture, and foraging behavior of the stingless bee, Tetragonula (Tetragonula) ruficornis Smith, a widespread species in the north Indian plains from Varanasi to Punjab. Among the 47 wild, unmanaged colonies studied, 27 were situated in the cavities of tree trunks and 20 in the cavities of building walls. The internal nest structure revealed that brood cells were arranged in clusters at the center of the cavity with encircling pollen and honey pots. Further, the natural nesting cavity’s total length, width, and height varied from 105 to 168 mm, 129 to 216 mm, and 283 to 472 mm, respectively. The foraging activity of outgoing and incoming foragers of T. ruficornis varied significantly during different hours of the day, across the seasons and prevailing weather conditions. Further, activity was limited to daytime from 08:00 to 18:00 h, with peak activity of outgoing and incoming forager bees between 10:00 and 12:00 h during all seasons. Irrespective of seasons, the foraging activity of outgoing, pollen, and nectar foragers was at its maximum at 12:00 h. However, foraging ceased during December and January due to low temperatures, while peak activity was observed during April. The foraging pattern showed a significant positive correlation with mean monthly maximum and minimum temperatures and a significant negative correlation with relative humidity. The current investigation delivers crucial information on nest architecture and foraging behavior, which could be exploited for designing bee hives and utilization in directed pollination services.


Download data is not yet available.


Abou-Shaara, H.F., Al-Ghamdi, A.A. & Mohamed, A.A. (2012). Tolerance of two honey bee races to various temperature and relative humidity gradients. Environmental and Experimental Biology, 10: 133-138.

Ahmadzadeh, R., Sindhu, S.S., Prasad, K.V., Das, D.K. & Sahoo, R.N. (2015). Mapping and cataloging trees of the IARI campus, New Delhi, India, using GIS and GPS. Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences, 85: 131-136.

Azmi, W.A., Zulqurnain, N.S. & Ghazi, R. (2015). Melissopalynology and foraging activity of stingless bees, Lepidotrigona terminata (Hymenoptera: Apidae) from an apiary in Besut, Terengganu. Journal of Sustainability Science and Management, 10: 27-35.

Barbosa, F.M., Alves, R.M.D.O., Souza, B.D.A. & Carvalho, C.A.L.D. (2013). Nest architecture of the stingless bee Geotrigona subterranea (Friese, 1901) (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini). Biota Neotropica, 13: 147-152.

Batista, M.A., Ramalho, M. & Soares, A.E. (2003). Nesting sites and abundance of Meliponini (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in heterogeneous habitats of the Atlantic Rain Forest, Bahia, Brazil. Lundiana: International Journal of Biodiversity, 4: 19-23.

Burrill, R.M. & Dietz, A. (1981). The response of honey bees to variations in solar radiation and temperature. Apidologie, 12: 319-328.

Chauhan, A. & Singh, H.K. (2021). Nest architecture of stingless bee, Tetragonula gressitti Sakagami from Nagaland, India. International Journal of Tropical Insect Science, 41: 3099-3104.

Choudhary, A., Singh, J. & Chhuneja, P.K. (2021). Nest Architecture and Nesting Site Preference of Tetragonula iridipennis Smith in North-Western Plains of India. Journal of Apicultural Science, 65: 49-59.

Couvillon, M.J., Wenseleers, T., Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L., Nogueira-Neto, P. & Ratnieks, F.L. (2008). Comparative study in stingless bees (Meliponini) demonstrates that nest entrance size predicts traffic and defensivity. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 21: 194-201.

Danaraddi, C.S., Sangamesha, H., Biradar, S.B., Manjunath, T. & Vinod, S.K. (2011). Studies on foraging behaviour of stingless bee, Trigona iridipennis Smith at Dharwad, Karnataka. International Journal of Forestry and Crop Improvement, 2: 163-169.

Danaraddi, C.S., Shashidhar, V., Basavanagoud, K. & Bhat, A.R.S. (2009). Nesting habits and nest structure of stingless bee, Trigona iridipennis Smith at Dharwad, Karnataka. Karnataka Journal of Agricultural Sciences, 22: 310-313.

Devanesan, S., Nisha, M.M., Bennet, R. & Shailaja, K.K. (2002). Foraging behaviour of stingless bees, Trigona iridipennis Smith. Insect Environment, 8: 131-133.

Di Trani, J.C. & Villanueva-Gutiérrez, R. (2018). Annual foraging patterns of the Maya bee Melipona beecheii (Bennett, 1831) in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Pot-Pollen in Stingless Bee Melittology, 131-138 p.

Dustmann, J.H. & Ohe, W.V. (1988). Effect of cold snaps on the build-up of honey bee colonies in springtime, Apidologie, 19: 245-253.

Eltz, T., Brühl, C.A., Imiyabir, Z. & Linsenmair, K.E. (2003). Nesting and nest trees of stingless bees (Apidae: Meliponini) in lowland dipterocarp forests in Sabah, Malaysia, with implications for forest management. Forest Ecology Management, 172: 301-13.

Engel, M.S., Rasmussen, C., Ayala, R. & de Oliveira, F.F. (2023). Stingless bee classification and biology (Hymenoptera, Apidae): a review, with an updated key to genera and subgenera. ZooKeys, 1172: 239-312.

Gajanan, S., Mohite, S., Kuberappa, G.C. & Kencharaddi, R.N. (2005). The nest architecture of stingless bee, Trigona iridipennis. Indian Bee Journal, 67: 36-40.

Gonzalez, V.H., Amith, J.D. & Stein, T.J. (2018). Nesting ecology and the cultural importance of stingless bees to speakers of Yoloxóchitl Mixtec, an endangered language in Guerrero, Mexico. Apidologie, 49: 625-636.

Grüter, C. (2020). Stingless Bees: Their Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution. Springer, Cham, Switzerland, 385 p.

Halcroft, M.T., Haigh, A.M., Holmes, S.P. & Spooner-Hart, R.N. (2013). The thermal environment of nests of the Australian stingless bee, Austroplebeia australis. Insectes sociaux, 60: 497-506.

Heard, T.A. & Hendrikz, J.K. (1993). Factors influencing flight activity of colonies of the stingless bee Trigona carbonaria (Hymenoptera, Apidae). Australian Journal of Zoology, 41: 343-353.

Heard, T.A. (1999). The role of stingless bees in crop pollination. Annual review of entomology, 44: 183-206.

Hora, Z.A., Bayeta, A.G. & Negera, T. (2023). Nesting ecology and nest characteristics of stingless bees (Apidae: Meliponini) in Oromia Regional State, Ethiopia. International Journal of Tropical Insect Science, 43: 1-9.

Hrncir, M., Maia-Silva, C., da Silva Teixeira-Souza, V.H. & Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L. (2019). Stingless bees and their adaptations to Extreme Environments. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 205: 415-426.

Jaapar, M.F., Jajuli, R., Mispan, M.R. & Ghani, I.A. (2018). Foraging behavior of stingless bee Heterotrigona itama (Cockerell, 1918) (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini). In AIP Conference Proceedings, 1940: 020037.

Jha, S. & Dick, C.W. (2010). Native bees mediate long-distance pollen dispersal in a shade coffee landscape mosaic. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107: 13760-13764.

Joshi, N.C. & Joshi, P.C. (2010). Foraging behavior of Apis spp. on apple flowers in a subtropical environment. New York Science Journal, 3: 71-76.

Kajobe, R. & Echazarreta, C.M. (2005). Temporal resource partitioning and climatological influences on colony flight and foraging of stingless bees (Apidae; Meliponini) in Ugandan tropical forests. African Journal of Ecology, 43: 267-275.

Kajobe, R. (2007). Nesting biology of equatorial Afrotropical stingless bees (Apidae; Meliponini) in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Journal of apicultural research, 46: 245-255.

Kelly, N., Farisya, M.S.N., Kumara, T.K. & Marcela, P. (2014). Species Diversity and External Nest Characteristics of Stingless Bees in Meliponiculture. Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, 37: 293-298.

Layek, U. & Karmakar, P. (2018). Nesting characteristics, floral resources, and foraging activity of Trigona iridipennis Smith in Bankura district of West Bengal, India. Insectes Sociaux, 65: 117-132.

Maia-Silva, C., Hrncir, M., da Silva, C.I. & Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L. (2015). Survival strategies of stingless bees (Melipona subnitida) in an unpredictable environment, the Brazilian tropical dry forest. Apidologie, 46: 631-643.

Melo, G.A. & Costa, M.A. (2009). A new cluster-brood building species of Plebeia (Hymenoptera, Apidae) from eastern Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Entomologia, 53: 77-81.

Melo, G.A. (2020). Stingless bees (Meliponini). Encyclopedia of Social Insects. Springer, Switzerland, 1-18 p.

Michener, C.D. (2000). The bees of the world Baltimore Johns Hopkins University Press. 913 p.

Michener, C.D. (2007). The bees of the world (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 953 p.

Moritz, R.F.A. & Crewe, R.M. (1988). Air ventilation in nests of two African stingless bees Trigona denoiti and Trigona gribodoi. Experientia, 44: 1024-1027.

Nayak, P.P. & Reddy, S.M. (2013). Nesting pattern preferences of stingless bee, Trigona iridipennis Smith (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in Jnanabharathi Campus, Karnataka, India. International Research Journal of Biological Sciences, 2: 44-50.

Pooley, A.C. & Michener, C.D. (1969). Observations on nests of stingless honeybees in Natal (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Journal of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa, 32: 423-430.

Rasmussen, C. & Cameron, S.A. (2010). Global stingless bee phylogeny supports ancient divergence, vicariance, and long-distance dispersal. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 99: 206-232.

Rasmussen, C. (2013). Stingless bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini) of the Indian subcontinent: Diversity, taxonomy and current status of knowledge. Zootaxa, 3647: 401-428.

Rasmussen, C., Thomas, J.C. & Engel, M.S. (2017). A new genus of Eastern Hemisphere stingless bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae), with a key to the supraspecific groups of Indomalayan and Australasian Meliponini. American Museum Novitates, 3888: 1-33.

Reddy, P.R., Rashmi, T. & Verghese, A. (2015). Foraging activity of Indian honey bee, Apis cerana in relation to ambient climate variables under tropical conditions. Journal of Environmental Biology, 36: 577-581.

Roopa, A.N., Eswarappa, G., Sajjanar, S.M. & Gowda, G. (2015). Study on nesting characteristics and biology of Stingless Bee (Trigona iridipennis Smith.). IOSR Journal of Agriculture and Veterinary Science, 8: 34-36.

Roubik, D.W. (2006). Stingless bee nesting biology. Apidologie, 37: 124-143.

Ruttner, F. (1988). Morphometric analysis and classification. Biogeography and taxonomy of honeybees, 66-78 p.

Sakagami, S.F. (1978). Tetragonula stingless bees of the continental Asia and Sri Lanka (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Journal of the Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University. Series - VI, 21: 165-247.

Shanas, S. & Faseeh, P. (2019). A new subgenus and three new species of stingless bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Apinae: Meliponini) from India. Entomon, 44: 33-48.

Slaa, E.J., Chaves, L.A.S., Malagodi-Braga, K.S. & Hofstede, F.E. (2006). Stingless bees in applied pollination: practice and perspectives. Apidologie, 37: 293-315.

Suriawanto, N., Atmowidi, T. & Kahono, S. (2017). Nesting site characteristics of stingless bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Journal of Insect Biodiversity, 5: 1-9.

Vijayakumar, K., Muthuraman, M. & Jayaraj, R. (2013). Propagating Trigona iridipennis colonies (Apidae: Meliponini) by eduction method. Scholars Academic Journal of Biosciences, 1: 1-3.

Viraktamath, S. & Roy, J. (2022). Description of five new species of Tetragonula (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini) from India. Biologia, 77: 1769-1793.

Virkar, P.S., Shrotriya, S. & Uniyal, V.P. (2014). Building Walkways: Observation on Nest Duplication of Stingless Bee Trigona iridipennis Smith (1854). Ambient Science, 1: 38-40.

Vit, P., Pedro, S.R.M. & Roubik, D.W. (Eds.). (2018) Pot-pollen in stingless bee melittology. 380-389 p.

Wille, A. (1983). Biology of the stingless bees. Annual Review of Entomology, 28: 41-64.




How to Cite

Hadimani, B. N., K. M., K., & Dey, D. (2024). First Report of Nesting Habits, Nest Architecture and Foraging Behaviour of the Stingless bee, Tetragonula (Tetragonula) ruficornis (Smith) (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini) from India. Sociobiology, 71(2), e10114.



Research Article - Bees