Bumble bees feeding on non-plant food sources

publication date: Sep 7, 2010
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Bee World Vol.71 (2) 1990 pp.67-69
Article Title

Bumble bees feeding on non-plant food sources

Author(s)

Carlos M Herrera

Abstract

Insects characterized by monotonously phytophagous diets occasionally feed on non-plant material. Adler & Wheeler, for example, reported non-plant food sources for a variety of phytophagous Heteroptera (Hemiptera), including bird droppings, dung, and carrion. Some tropical butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) follow army ants to feed on antbird droppings. Among bees (Apoidea), the only records of non-plant food known to me involve members of the tropical subfamily Meliponinae (stingless bees). These occasionally collect faeces and carrion, and Trigona hypogea is an obligate necrophage, using carrion instead of pollen as a protein source. Honeybees may sometimes use non-floral resources such as honeydew or bacterially-induced plant exudates but these are to be considered just barely modified plant products. Given this scarcity of non-plant feeding records for bees other than Meliponinae, I report here on several observations of temperate (Bombus terrestris) and tropical (Bombus ephippiatus) bumble bees feeding on carrion, bird droppings, human urine and mammalian faeces (nomenclature for bumble bees follows Prys-Jones & Corbet and Heithaus).

Keywordsbumble bees, food sources, feeding,
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