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Volume 33, Number 5, September-October 2002
Page(s) 433 - 445

Apidologie 33 (2002) 433-445
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2002025

Parasitism in the social bee Apis mellifera: quantifying costs and benefits of behavioral resistance to Varroa destructor mites

Rémy Vandamea, Serge Morandb, Marc-E. Colinc and Luc P. Belzuncesc

a  ECOSUR (El Colegio de la Frontera Sur), Proyecto `Abejas de Chiapas', Apdo. postal 36, 30700 Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico
b  Université de Perpignan, Centre de Biologie et d'Écologie Tropicale et Méditerranéenne, France
c  INRA, UMR INRA-UAPV " Écologie des Invertébrés ", 84914 Avignon, France

(Received 4 May 2001; revised 22 August 2001; accepted 18 March 2002)

The case of a host-parasite relationship may provide a good model to evaluate the costs and benefits of some behaviors, an area in which field data a currently lacking. European (EHB) and Africanized (AHB) honey bees are two Apis mellifera subspecies that coexist in Mexico, the former highly compatible with Varroa destructor , the latter less compatible. Here we examine two mechanisms that could explain the low compatibility between AHB and V. destructor in Mexico: (1) grooming behavior appeared significantly more intensive in AHB colonies, but was nevertheless ineffective; (2) EHB removed 8.03% of the infested brood, while AHB removed 32.46%, especially between 5 and 7 days post-capping. Though the cost of removing infested brood was not different between subspecies, the result, in terms of the amount of removed infested brood, was significantly higher for AHB. For both bees, there is thus a real cost, since removing a pupa results in a lower number of adult bees. We discuss the possibility that the removal of infested brood corresponds with a threshold above which the cost of removal becomes greater than the benefit.

Key words: Apis mellifera / Varroa destructor / parasitology / costs and benefits / behavioral resistance

Correspondence and reprints: Rémy Vandame

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2002