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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) 165 - 192

Apidologie 33 (2002) 165-192
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2002008

Behavioural basis for social parasitism of Cape honeybees (Apis mellifera capensis)

Peter Neumanna and Randall Hepburnb

a  Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Institut für Zoologie, Kröllwitzerstr. 44, 06099 Halle/Saale, Germany
b  Rhodes University, Department of Zoology and Entomology, 61440 Grahamstown, Republic of South Africa

(Received 12 November 2001; revised 12 December 2001; accepted 4 January 2002)

Cape honeybee workers show important pre-adaptations for social parasitism and can cause the dwindling colony syndrome of host colonies. Parasitic workers may drift or actively disperse into host colonies. They may also join absconding swarms, which can merge with host colonies. After transmission, parasitic workers have to establish themselves in the host, which is probably promoted by their spatial distribution, their readiness to gain trophallactic dominance and their ability to survive worker-worker aggression. Established parasitic workers have to evade egg removal by other workers in host colonies. The resulting offspring is preferentially fed, can be expected to be highly virulent and may show different behaviour in the course of infestation. It is unknown why and how the host queen is lost. High numbers of parasitic workers are reared until the host colony dies or absconds. This offspring can infest new host colonies, thereby completing the social parasitic life cycle.

Key words: Apis mellifera capensis / Apis mellifera scutellata / honeybee / social parasitism / worker reproduction

Correspondence and reprints: Peter Neumann

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2002