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Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 371–377 | Cite as

The degree of parasitism of the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) by cuckoo bumblebees (Bombus (Psithyrus) vestalis)

  • S. Erler
  • H. M. G. Lattorff
Research Article

Abstract

Host–parasite systems are characterised by coevolutionary arms races between host and parasite. Parasites are often the driving force, as they replicate much faster than their hosts and have shorter generation times and larger population sizes, resulting in higher mutation rates per time interval. This scenario does not fit all host–parasite systems. Socially parasitic cuckoo bumblebees (Bombus (Psithyrus) vestalis) parasitise colonies of Bombus terrestris share most life history characteristics with their hosts. As they parasitise only a subset of all available colonies, their population size should be lower than that of their hosts. This might have strong negative effects on the genetic diversity of B. vestalis and their adaptability. Here, we study for the first time the population structure of a Bombus/Bombus (Psithyrus) system. Highly polymorphic DNA markers were used to reconstruct sibships from individuals collected in the wild. The analysis of the host and parasite populations revealed a rate of parasitism of about 42% (range 33–50%). The population size of B. vestalis was lower compared to their hosts, which was also reflected in low within-group genetic distance. An analysis of the reconstructed queen genotypes revealed more supersisters amongst the B. vestalis queens when compared to the B. terrestris host. The data suggest that B. vestalis females and males do not disperse over long distances. This shows a potential for local adaptation to their hosts.

Keywords

Social parasite Psithyrus Bumblebees Sibship reconstruction 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the students of the 2008 summer course in ecology for the help with sampling and DNA analysis. Financial support was granted by the BMBF program FUGATO-Plus (FKZ: 0315126 to HMGL).

Supplementary material

40_2010_93_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (176 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 176 kb)

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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Biologie, Molekulare ÖkologieMartin-Luther-Universität Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany

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