Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Faster brood growth in traditional log hives than in modern box hives, in colonies of the stingless bee Melipona beecheii; experiments at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico

Published source details

Quezada-Euan J.J.G. & González-Acereto J. (1994) A preliminary study on the development of colonies of Melipona beecheii in traditional and rational hives. Journal of Apicultural Research, 33, 167-170

Background

Stingless bees (family Meliponinae) are threatened by deforestation in South America and encouraging stingless beekeeping is one strategy to conserve them. Traditionally, stingless bees are kept in hollow logs, which allow little colony management and make honey-harvesting messy. This study compared the development of colonies of the stingless bee Melipona beecheii kept in traditional log hives and in two types of box hive, at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico.

Action

17 colonies of M. beecheii were collected from different parts of the state of Yucatán – either feral (naturalised) colonies or managed colonies in traditional logs. These were transferred (dates not given) to one of three types of hive: a traditional hollow log (control), a ‘Nogueira-Neto’ box hive or a hive based on the design of the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas de Amazonia. The internal volumes of these hives were 10.06 litres, 14.30 l and 14.52 l respectively. The traditional log hives had 4 cm thick walls; the box hives had 2 cm thick walls.

Food stores (honey and pollen) were not transferred. Colonies were fed with 20 ml of 2:1 sucrose: water solution every five days, and 15 g of wax was added after five days.
The volume of each brood comb was estimated from length, width and height measurements during transfer, and subsequently every 15 days for three months. The number of sealed honey pots was counted at each recording date.

Consequences

The amount of brood comb developed in three months was significantly greater in the traditional log hives (average 848 cm3) than in the two box hives (average 414-544 cm3). The number of sealed food pots built by the bees did not differ between the hive types (average 15.93-17.86 pots).

The authors suggest that brood comb development was slow in the box hives because the larger internal space made it more difficult for bees to regulate the temperature. They recommend reducing the volume of box hives by about one third.
Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, which is available through the International Bee Research Association http://www.ibra.org.uk