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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) 139 - 163

Apidologie 33 (2002) 139-163
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2002006

Pheromone mimicry by Apis mellifera capensis social parasites leads to reproductive anarchy in host Apis mellifera scutellata colonies

Theresa Clair Wossler

Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa

(Received 1 November; revised 12 December 2001; accepted 19 December 2001)

Queen mandibular, tergal, tarsal and Dufour's gland secretions, as well as brood pheromones regulate worker reproduction in honeybees. In South Africa two contiguous populations of honeybees exist, Apis mellifera capensis and A. m. scutellata. Queenless A. m. capensis workers are reproductively distinct from workers of other races, in that they readily develop into pseudoqueens with rapid ovary and signal development. A. m. capensis queens are pheromonally competent in regulating reproduction in the resident workers. Recently however Cape honeybee workers have successfully invaded queenright A. m. scutellata colonies and simultaneously escaped reproductive suppression from the resident queen and brood. These "social parasites" rapidly develop into reproductives, lay acceptable eggs and mimic a series of queen pheromones. This pheromone mimicry by invading A. m. capensis workers causes a breakdown in reproductive regulation, resulting in reproductive anarchy.

Key words: Apis mellifera / worker reproduction / caste plasticity / pheromones / social parasite

Correspondence and reprints: Theresa Clair Wossler

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2002