Determining colony densities in wild honeybee populations (Apis mellifera) with linked microsatellite DNA markers
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- Moritz, R.F.A., Dietemann, V. & Crewe, R. J Insect Conserv (2008) 12: 455. doi:10.1007/s10841-007-9078-5
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Estimating the population size of social bee colonies in the wild is often difficult because nests are highly cryptic. Because of the honeybee (Apis mellifera) mating behaviour, which is characterized by multiple mating of queens at drone congregation areas (DCA), it is possible to use genotypes of drones caught at these areas to infer the number of colonies in a given region. However, DCAs are difficult to locate and we assess the effectiveness of an alternative sampling technique to determine colony density based on inferring male genotypes from queen offspring. We compare these methods in the same population of wild honeybees, Apis mellifera scutellata. A set of linked microsatellite loci is used to decrease the frequency of recombination among marker loci and therefore increase the precision of the estimates. Estimates of population size obtained through sampling of queen offspring is significantly larger than that obtained by sampling drones at DCAs. This difference may be due to the more extensive flying range of queens compared with drones on mating flights. We estimate that the population size sampled through queen offspring is about double that sampled through drones.