Lower disease infections in honeybee (Apis mellifera) colonies headed by polyandrous vs monandrous queens
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We studied the relationship between genetic diversity and disease susceptibility in honeybee colonies living under natural conditions. To do so, we created colonies in which each queen was artificially inseminated with sperm from either one or ten drones. Of the 20 colonies studied, 80% showed at least one brood disease. We found strong differences between the two types of colonies in the infection intensity of chalkbrood and in the total intensity of all brood diseases (chalkbrood, sacbrood, American foulbrood, and European foulbrood) with both variables lower for the colonies with higher genetic diversity. Our findings demonstrate that disease can be an important factor in the ecology of honeybee colonies and they provide strong support for the disease hypothesis for the evolution of polyandry by social insect queens.
KeywordsDrone Infection Intensity Multiple Mating Honeybee Coloni Mating Frequency
We thank Jennifer Keller, Joshua Summers, and Ben Crawley for help in the field work. This project was funded by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and by the National Research Initiative of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, grant number 2003-35302-13387. This experiment complies with the laws of the USA.
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