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The nature of the arena surface affects the outcome of host-finding behavior bioassays in Varroa destructor (Anderson & Trueman)

Abstract

Varroa destructor, an acarian parasite of the Western honey bee Apis mellifera L., is a serious threat to colonies and beekeeping worldwide. The parasite lifecycle occurs in close synchrony with its host development. The females have to discriminate between different developmental stages of the host and trigger an appropriate behavioral response. Many studies have focused on these behavioral aspects, whether it is the choice of a precise host stage or the reproduction of female mites. Behavioral tests often require laboratory settings that are very different from the mite’s environment. Our first experiment was designed to study the impact of the surface of test arena on the mite behavior. We found that plastic from Petri dishes commonly used as test arenas disturbs the female mites and can cause death. We searched for a substrate that does not harm mites and found that gelatin-coated plastic Petri dishes responded to these expectations. We then investigated the host choice behavior of phoretic mites confronted with larval stages of the bee on gelatin-coated arenas to watch if the well-documented orientation towards 5th instar larva was observable in our conditions. Pupal stages were included in the host choice experiments, initially to act as neutral stimuli. As white-eyed pupae were revealed attractive to the mite, several pupal stages were then included in a series of host choice bioassays. These additional experiments tend to show that the positive response to the white-eyed pupa stage depends on cues only delivered by living pupae. Further investigation on the nature and impact of these cues are needed as they could shed light on key signals involved in the parasite lifecycle.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Tessa Smith from the University of Tasmania for English proofreading.

Funding

This study was funded by Région Midi-Pyrénées and Institut National Universitaire Jean-François Champollion (Grant no. 12050616). JLH was supported by the French Laboratory of Excellence projects TULIP (Towards a Unified theory of biotic Interactions: the role of environmental Perturbations; ANR-10-LABX-41, ANR-11-IDEX-0002-02) and CEBA (Centre d’Etude de la Biodiversité Amazonienne; ANR-10-LABX-25-01).

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Correspondence to Vincent Piou.

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Piou, V., Urrutia, V., Laffont, C. et al. The nature of the arena surface affects the outcome of host-finding behavior bioassays in Varroa destructor (Anderson & Trueman). Parasitol Res 118, 2935–2943 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-019-06435-2

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Keywords

  • Varroa destructor
  • Host choice behavior
  • Honey bees
  • White-eyed pupae
  • Gelatin arenas