Behavioral attributes and parental care of Varroa mites parasitizing honeybee brood

Abstract

Varroa jacobsoni, an ectoparasite of the Asian honeybee Apis cerana, has been introduced world-wide, and is currently decimating colonies of the European honeybee Apis mellifera. Varroa's reproductive cycle is tuned to that of drone cells, those mainly parasitized in the original host. We describe here how a single fertilized female, infesting a brood cell, can produce two to four adult fertilized females within the limited time span of bee development (270 h in worker and 320 h in drone cells), despite the disturbance caused by cocoon spinning and subsequent morphological changes of the bee. From observations on transparent artificial cells we were able to show how the mite combats these problems with specialized behaviors that avoid destruction by the developing bee, prepares a feeding site for the nymphs on the bee pupa, and constructs a fecal accumulation on the cell wall which serves as a rendezvous site for matings between its offspring. The proximity of the fecal accumulation to the feeding site facilitates feeding by the maturing progeny. However, communal use of the feeding site leads to competition between individuals, and protonymphs are most disadvantaged. This competition is somewhat compensated by the timing of oviposition by the mites. Use of a common rendezvous and feeding site by two or more Varroa mothers in multiinfested cells may have developed from the parental care afforded to them as nymphs.

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Donzé, G., Guerin, P.M. Behavioral attributes and parental care of Varroa mites parasitizing honeybee brood. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 34, 305–319 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00197001

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Key words

  • Acari
  • Varroa jacobsoni
  • Reproduction
  • Parental care
  • Behavior