Free Access
Volume 40, Number 2, March-April 2009
Page(s) 184 - 191
Published online 03 April 2009
Apidologie 40 (2009) 184-191
DOI: 10.1051/apido/2009003

Intra- and interspecific brood recognition in pure and mixed-species honeybee colonies, Apis cerana and A. mellifera

Ken Tan1, 2, Mingxian Yang2, 3, Sarah E. Radloff4, Yushen Yu5, Christian W.W. Pirk6 and H. Randall Hepburn2, 3

1  Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Science, Kunming, Yunnan Province, China
2  Eastern Bee Research Institute, Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming, China
3  Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
4  Department of Statistics, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
5  Bee Research Institute of Yunnan Agricultural Academy of Science, Mongzi, Yunnan, China
6  Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa

Received 26 August 2008 – Revised 2 December 2008 – Accepted 2 December 2008 - Published online 3 April 2009

Abstract - We studied the effects of mixed honeybee colonies of Apis mellifera and Apis cerana on the intraspecific and interspecific recognition of female brood stages in the honeybees A. cerana and A. mellifera by transferring brood combs between queenright colonies. In the intraspecific tests, significantly more larvae were removed in A. cerana than in A. mellifera, whilst significantly fewer eggs and pupae were removed in A. cerana than in A. mellifera. In the interspecific tests, A. cerana colonies removed significantly more larvae and pupae of A. mellifera than the same brood stages of A. cerana were removed by A. mellifera. We show there are highly significant differences in both intraspecific and interspecific brood recognition between A. cerana and A. mellifera and that brood recognition operates with decreasing intensity with increasing developmental age within species. This suggests that worker policing in egg removal is a first line of defense against heterospecific social parasites.

Key words: Apis mellifera / Apis cerana / nestmate recognition / social parasitism

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2009