Arthropod Struct Dev 2018 Jan 29;47(1):25-35. Epub 2017 Dec 29.
Department of Integrative Zoology, University of Vienna, Faculty of Life Science, Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria. Electronic address:
Neotropical orchid bees (Euglossini) possess the longest proboscides among bees. In this study, we compared the feeding behavior and functional morphology of mouthparts in two similarly large-sized species of Euglossa that differ greatly in proboscis length. Feeding observations and experiments conducted under semi-natural conditions were combined with micro-morphological examination using LM, SEM and micro CT techniques. The morphometric comparison showed that only the components of the mouthparts that form the food tube differ in length, while the proximal components, which are responsible for proboscis movements, are similar in size. This study represents the first documentation of lapping behaviour in Euglossini. We demonstrate that Euglossa bees use a lapping-sucking mode of feeding to take up small amounts of fluid, and a purely suctorial technique for larger fluid quantities. The mouthpart movements are largely similar to that in other long-tongued bees, except that the postmentum in Euglossa can be extended, greatly enhancing the protraction of the glossa. This results in a maximal functional length that is about 50% longer than the length of the food canal composing parts of the proboscis. The nectar uptake and the sensory equipment of the proboscis are discussed in context to flower probing.