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Volume 34, Number 6, November-December 2003
Page(s) 543 - 552
Apidologie 34 (2003) 543-552
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2003054

Differential tending of worker and drone larvae of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, during the 60 hours prior to cell capping

Nicholas W. Calderone and L.P.S. Kuenen

Department of Entomology Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
(Received 25 March 2002; revised 26 February 2003; accepted 13 March 2003)

Varroa destructor is a parasitic mite of A. mellifera. Female mites reproduce on both drone and worker brood; but they are found 5-9 times more often on drone brood. We examined larval tending by brood nest bees to determine if this behavior could provide an explanation for these differences. We observed workers tending worker and drone larvae in three observation colonies commencing 60 h prior to the completion of cell capping, an interval that includes the susceptible periods of both types of brood. Workers invested 2.78 times more time tending drone larvae than worker larvae, a difference due primarily to a greater number of tending acts directed towards drone brood. This finding demonstrates that phoretic mites may have more opportunity to enter drone brood. The 2.78 fold difference in time tending larvae combined with the previously reported 2-4-fold differences in the lengths of the periods when cells are capped could explain a 5.56-11.12 fold difference in mite levels in worker and drone brood, similar to `previously' reported differences.

Key words: Varroa destructor / Apis mellifera / nurse bee / cell capping

Correspondence and reprints: Nicholas W. Calderone

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2003