7 August 2014
The Short Answer (TSA)
The Vulture bee is one of the oddest members of the bee family. Discovered in 1902, the Trigona hypogea (or T. hypogea) was found to be a member of a relatively small number of species of “stingless bees.”
Stingless bees of all varieties are of great interest these days. These bees are being carefully examined as candidates for domestication. Commercial beekeepers are looking for a bee that’s a good pollinator and honey producer. But beekeepers also want a bee that can’t pose the toxic danger that stinging bees sometimes do.
Although stingless bees are found on several continents, the Vulture bee, along with many other species of stingless bees, live in Central and South America. But long after its discovery, the Vulture bee was still keeping a big secret. There was something else about this bee that it made it “one of a kind.”
In 1982, eighty years after its discovery, researchers observing the Vulture bee discovered that this bee doesn’t gather pollen, nectar or honey. Instead, the Vulture bees diet was from an entirely different “food group.” Like its namesake, the vulture, the Vulture bee searches for dead animals and, then, eats the meat.
After settling down to a carnivorous meal, The Vulture, like other varieties of bees, reduces a good part of its meal to a food substance that is stored in the colony’s nest. That food will sometimes be used to feed the nest’s bees in lean times, but regularly used to feed the colony’s developing young bees.