Lack of interspecific parasitism between the dwarf honeybees Apis andreniformis and Apis florea
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The dwarf honeybees Apis florea and Apis andreniformis are sympatric in Southeast Asia. We examined undisturbed nests of both species finding that heterospecific workers are present in some nests at low frequency. This suggested that workers may enter heterospecific nests as a prelude to reproductive parasitism. To test this hypothesis, we created mixed-species colonies and determined the reproductive response of workers within them based on molecular markers. In queenless colonies, workers of both species activated their ovaries at equal frequency. However, the majority species, A. florea, had complete reproductive dominance over A. andreniformis, most likely because the A. florea workers recognised and removed heterospecific larvae. In queenright mixed-species colonies, workers responded to heterospecific signals of the presence of the queen and did not activate their ovaries. Thus, despite predictions from kin selection theory that workers would benefit from parasitising heterospecific nests, we find no evidence that selection has established a parasitic strategy in these sibling species.
KeywordsBrood parasitism Worker reproduction Policing Apis florea Apis andreniformis
We thank Siriwat Wongsiri for advice and Det and Teddy Wattanachaiyingcharoen for help in the field. Funding was provided by an Australian Research Council grant to M. Beekman and B. Oldroyd, and by the Thailand Research Fund TRFC/BIOTECH Special Program for Biodiversity Research and Training, grant BRT R25137.
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