African endemic stingless bees as an efficient alternative pollinator to honey bees in greenhouse cucumber (Cucumis sativus L)

Nkoba Kiatoko*, Maria I. Pozo, Annette Van Oystaeyen, Maurice Musonye, Junior Kika, Felix Wäckers, Frank van Langevelde, Baerbel Hundt, Juliana Jaramillo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The current honey bee decline necessitates the use of alternative native pollinators to ensure global food security. Here, we compared the pollination behaviour and efficiency of the African honey bee (Apis mellifera) and six African endemic Meliponini (Meliponula bocandei, Dactylurina schmidti, Meliponula lendliana, Hypotrigona gribodoi, Meliponula ferruginea and Meliponula togoensis) in a greenhouse with the non-parthenocarpic cucumber variety Super Marketer. Honey bees and D. schmidti started foraging on introduction in the greenhouse, while M. lendliana and M. togoensis showed the longest delay. In most species, foragers collected nectar and pollen, excepting M. bocandei that specialized in nectar collection, and H. gribodoi and M. togoensis, specialized in pollen collection. African honey bees visited flowers the shortest, while H. gribodoi and D. schmidti had a 2-fold probing time, on average. Most stingless bees species had a lower hive activity with fewer foragers encountered per hour than for honey bees, except D. schmidti. M. bocandei, M. ferruginea, A. mellifera scutellata and H. gribodoi, yielded a seed germination percentage of around 90%. M. lendliana, M. togoensis and D. schmidti yielded a much lower seed germination percentage around 30%, which indicates that the quality of pollination was remarkably lower by using these three species. The highest sugar content was recorded in fruits from flowers pollinated by M. bocandei, African honey bees, D. schimdti or M. togoensis with the same solid content as the gold standard method, i.e., hand cross-pollination. We found that M. bocandei was the most efficient cucumber pollinator of all species tested: because pollination by this species yielded the largest and heaviest fruits and the highest seed numbers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1029
JournalJournal of Apicultural Research
Issue number5
Early online date5 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2023


  • behaviour
  • Conservation
  • crop yield
  • cucurbits
  • Meliponini
  • pollination


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