The 2005 ESA Annual Meeting and Exhibition
December 15-18, 2005
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Hygienic behavior and Varroa mite infestation in gentle Africanized honey bee colonies in Puerto Rico

Bert Rivera-Marchand,, Devrim Oskay,, and Tugrul Giray, University of Puerto Rico, Biology Department, PO Box 23360, San Juan, PR

Africanized honey bees arrived to the island of Puerto Rico in 1994. With the virtual absence of European bees due to the presence of Varroa they spread quickly. In previous studies we determined that although the feral population of honey bees is Africanized by maternal descent they have reduced defensiveness. In this study we evaluated hygienic behavior and mite resistance of the island’s Africanized honey bees. Since their invasion has been successful regardless of the presence of Varroa on the island, we hypothesized that these bees have retained behaviors related to resistance. Nine feral swarms were captured and hived. Hives were at least 16 frames. Hygienic behavior was tested with a frozen brood assay. Mite resistance was determined by examining grooming behavior by counting mutilated mites, worker brood infestation, and recording mite fall after miticide application. Results of the hygienic behavior assay ranged from 100% removal within 48hrs to 26% in six days. Brood infestation levels by Varroa were less than 1%. An average of 75% of sampled fallen mites had grooming damage. The miticide treatment resulted in infestation levels ranging from 25 to 283 mites (AVG=128.1; SD=77.9). Our results suggest that the population of Africanized honey bees is intermediately hygienic and resistant to mite infestation. These results may help understand evolutionary processes affecting invasive species on islands, where certain typical behaviors may be lost (e.g. defensiveness) while others are retained (e.g. mite resistance).

Species 1: Hymenoptera Apidae Apis mellifera (honey bee)
Species 2: Acari Varroidae Varroa destructor
Keywords: Hygienic behavior

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