The anterior midgut region of stingless bees is anatomically and histologically modified, but its function is uncertain. Here, we describe the ultrastructure of the anterior midgut region of corbiculate bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) to help understand the structure and function of this section of the digestive tract. The species studied were Apis mellifera L. (Apini), Melipona quadrifasciata anthidioides Leptelier (Meliponini), Bombus morio (Swederus) (Bombini), and Euglossa townsendi Cockrell (Euglossini). The anterior midgut region has a specialized structure only in Meliponini with tall and narrowed cells. However, in M. quadrifasciata anthidioides, as well as in the others species studied, the cells of this midgut region have ultrastrucutural features of digestive cells. The basal plasma membrane infoldings have many openings to the hemocoel, suggesting an absorptive role in this midgut region. The cells of the anterior midgut region of Meliponini, despite having an anatomically and histologically differentiated section, consist of cells with ultrastructural features similar to those of the other corbiculate bees. These cells may play a role in water absorption.
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Vol. 101 • No. 5