Free Access
Volume 39, Number 6, November-December 2008
Page(s) 637 - 649
Published online 03 October 2008
Apidologie 39 (2008) 637-649
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2008048

Do the parasitic Psithyrus resemble their host bumblebees in colour pattern?

Paul H. Williams

Department of Entomology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK

Received 17 January 2008 – Revised 28 July 2008 – Accepted 9 August 2008 - Published online 3 October 2008

Abstract - It has been claimed for the parasitic Psithyrus bumblebees that each parasite species resembles closely its particular narrow range of bumblebee host species in colour pattern. The generality of colour-pattern resemblance is assessed by applying quantitative tests at three levels of resolution in the detail of the colour patterns. The results show that at all three levels the parasites and hosts are significantly more likely to share similar colour patterns than would be expected by chance in Europe, but not in North America. Parasites do not appear to be significantly more specialised in host choice in Europe than in North America, although there is more evidence of parasite-host co-speciation in Europe than in North America. Parasite-host resemblance appears most likely to be explained by Müllerian mimicry. For the host-specific Psithyrus, the host species might serve as the most influential model because necessarily the host species must co-occur with the parasite and must be common.

Key words: bumblebee / Bombus / cuckoo bee / colour pattern / mimicry

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2008