Octanoic acid confers to royal jelly varroa-repellent properties
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The mite Varroa destructor Anderson & Trueman is a parasite of the honeybee Apis mellifera L. and represents a major threat for apiculture in the Western world. Reproduction takes place only inside bee brood cells that are invaded just before sealing; drone cells are preferred over worker cells, whereas queen cells are not normally invaded. Lower incidence of mites in queen cells is at least partly due to the deterrent activity of royal jelly. In this study, the repellent properties of royal jelly were investigated using a lab bioassay. Chemical analysis showed that octanoic acid is a major volatile component of royal jelly; by contrast, the concentration is much lower in drone and worker larval food. Bioassays, carried out under lab conditions, demonstrated that octanoic acid is repellent to the mite. Field studies in bee colonies confirmed that the compound may interfere with the process of cell invasion by the mite.
KeywordsVarroa destructor Repellent Cell invasion Behaviour Royal jelly Octanoic acid
We dedicate this work to the memory of Norberto Milani who inspired this research and to whom we are all greatly indebted for friendship and generous support. We gratefully thank Prof. J.A. Pickett for revising an earlier version of the manuscript.
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