Friday Fellow: Jataí Bee

ResearchBlogging.orgby Piter Kehoma Boll

Certainly the most widespread, adaptable and well-known honey-producing bee is Apis melifera, commonly known as honeybee for obvious reasons. But there are a lot of other honey makers all over the world. Today I’m going to present you the most popular native bee in South America, Tetragonisca angustula, commonly known as jataí in Brazil and yateí, angelita, mariola and many other names in the Spanish-speaking countries.

Jataí bees at the entrance of their hive. Photo by Bernard Dupont.*

Jataí bees at the entrance of their hive. Photo by Bernard Dupont.*

Found from southern Mexico to southern Brazil and northern Argentina, the jataí bee is a very small stingless bee that easily thrives in urban areas. Measuring about 4–5 mm,  they build their nests in natural cavities of trees and sometimes in abandoned ant and termite nests or even in walls of human constructions.

Because it is a native species in the Neotropics, and therefore an important pollinator agent, and because it lacks a sting, being thus harmless to humans and domestic animals, the Jataí bee is an attractive species for domestication. In fact, the jataí bee is the only native stingless bee with a considerable large community of beekeepers maintaining hives. As the hives are small and harmless, they can also be used as effective pollinators of some plants, such as strawberries, inside greenhouses.

An individual jataí. Photo by George Shepherd.**

An individual jataí. Photo by George Shepherd.**

Considered of high quality, the honey produced by jataí bees is more expensive than that of common honeybees. In some places the price of jataí honey may be as much as ten times the price of honey produced by common honeybees. Just as the honey and propolis of common honeybees, jataí honey and propolis have antibacterial acitivity. People from communities in which the consuption of jataí honey is a common practice believe that it has medicinal properties, but actually there is no scientific evidence that jataí honey differs from the honey of common honeybees regarding this aspect.

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References:

Malagodi-Braga, K. S., Kleinert, A. M. P. (2004). Could Tetragonisca angustula Latreille (Apinae, Meliponinni) be effective as strawberry pollinator in greenhouses? Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 55 (7), 771-774. DOI: 10.1071/AR03240

Miorin, P., Levy Junior, N., Custodio, A., Bretz, W., & Marcucci, M. (2003). Antibacterial activity of honey and propolis from Apis mellifera and Tetragonisca angustula against Staphylococcus aureus. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 95 (5), 913-920 DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2672.2003.02050.x

Sawaya, A., Cunha, I., Marcucci, M., de Oliveira Rodrigues, R., & Eberlin, M. (2006). Brazilian Propolis of Tetragonisca angustula and Apis mellifera. Apidologie, 37 (3), 398-407 DOI: 10.1051/apido:2006011

Wikipedia. Tetragonisca angustula. Available at: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetragonisca_angustula >. Access on August 1, 2016.

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*Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

**Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

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Filed under Entomology, Friday Fellow, Zoology

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