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!
by Charles L. Hogue