These stingless bees have made their nest inside a termite mound. Earlier in the day, the bees weren’t clustered around the entrance like they are here. Instead they were simply flying in and out occasionally. This was taken late in the day though, and I suspect they are preparing to seal the entrance for the night. In the photo below, you get a better sense of how the nest is situated in the termite mound.
Though these bees are stingless, they aren’t defenseless. Do you see the clump of resin in the upper left? Looks like an ant has been encased there. I wonder if the bees perhaps mobbed it and secreted all that resin.
One of the common names for these bees in Brazil is torce-cabelo, which means hair-twister. I once got a little too close to a nest for the bees’ comfort. In return they made me quite uncomfortable. At first I didn’t realize what was happening. Suddenly they were crawling all over me, getting tangled up in the hair on my head, my arms, and anywhere they could grab hold. Having experienced that, I’m not likely to forget their common name.
This stingless bee nest was nestled in the hollow of a tree. The nest entrance is only about a centimeter wide, making the bees themselves only 5 or 6mm long.
As their common name suggests, these bees have no sting to defend themselves. Knowing that, I got quite close. Harmless though they may be, they certainly look mean.
In that last photo, you can see a new arrival hanging below the nest, with pollen visible in the basket on its hind tibia.
According to Hogue, there are three genera of stingless bees. Lestrimelitta can be eliminated here because it doesn’t have a pollen basket. Of the other two, Melipona is larger, hairier and the wings don’t extend beyond the tip of the abdomen as they do here. These must then be a Trigona species.
In this last photo, check out the length of the centipede passing in the background. This is an “easter egg”, that I didn’t notice when I took the picture. Even while reviewing, I initially mistook it for a climbing vine, except it was missing in the next photo!