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Volume 33, Number 2, March-April 2002
The Cape honeybee (Apis mellifera capensis). From laying workers to social parasites
Page(s) 233 - 244

Apidologie 33 (2002) 233-244
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2002002

Population dynamics of the Cape bee phenomenon: The impact of parasitic laying worker clones in apiaries and natural populations

Robin F.A. Moritz

Institut für Zoologie, Martin-Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg Kröllwitzer Str. 44, 06099 Halle/Saale, Germany

(Received 8 November 2001; revised 30 November 2001; accepted 7 December 2001)

A population ecological host- parasite model is used to evaluate the potential impact of clonal parasitic laying workers of the Cape honeybee, Apis mellifera capensis on populations of Apis mellifera scutellata host colonies in apiaries and in the wild. The model includes three basic life history parameters: reproductive rate of the host colonies, transmission efficiency of the parasite and the death rate of parasitised colonies. The population dynamics of host and parasites are computed for 100 generations after an initial infestation with parasitic workers. The model reveals that infestations are likely to be fatal for apiary populations irrespective of beekeeping activities compensating for colony losses due to parasitation. Wild A. m. scutellata populations are however less likely to be affected by parasitic laying workers and stable equilibria between host and parasite occur over a wide range of the parameter space. Although it is unlikely that the parasitic clone represents a threat to the conservation of biodiversity, even low frequencies of parasitic A. m. capensis workers in wild honeybee population can cause a permanent threat to beekeeping activities.

Key words: Cape honeybee / Apis mellifera capensis / parasitic worker / population model / biodiversity / apiculture

Correspondence and reprints: Robin F.A. Moritz

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2002