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Coexistence of genetically different Varroa destructor in Apis mellifera colonies


The aim of this study was to investigate the genetic diversity of Varroa destructor parasitizing Apis mellifera colonies and to test for possible host–parasite association at the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) level. Six A. mellifera haplotypes (including a novel C2aa) and five haplotypes of V. destructor were detected in 29 analyzed colonies from eight sampling sites in Serbia. We revealed the presence of the K and S1 haplotypes as well as KS1 and KP1 heteroplasmic mite individuals in all localities, while the P1 haplotype was only found in four sampling sites. Significant differences in V. destructor genetic diversity were found at both apiary and colony levels, with mite haplotypes coexisting in almost all tested colonies. In addition, a significant correlation between the number of analyzed mites per colony and the number of identified V. destructor haplotypes was observed. However, no significant host–parasite relationship was found, suggesting that mites bearing different haplotypes as well as those heteroplasmic individuals are well adapted to the host, A. mellifera, independently of the identified haplotype present in each colony. Our results will contribute to future population and biogeographic studies concerning V. destructor infesting A. mellifera, as well as to better understanding their host–parasite relationship.

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This study was supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia (Grant No. III46002) and the 19908-GERM-15 project of Regional Excellence from the Fundación Séneca (Gobierno Regional de Murcia, Spain). Irene Muñoz is supported by Fundación Séneca (Gobierno Regional de Murcia, Spain) through the post-doctoral fellowship “Saavedra Fajardo” (20036/SF/16).

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BG designed the study and wrote the manuscript; BG, IM and PDLR conducted molecular analyses and bioinformatics; NL performed statistical analysis; JS, ZK and ZS helped in interpretation of obtained results and critically revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Bojan Gajić.

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Gajić, B., Muñoz, I., De la Rúa, P. et al. Coexistence of genetically different Varroa destructor in Apis mellifera colonies. Exp Appl Acarol 78, 315–326 (2019).

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  • Varroa destructor
  • Apis mellifera
  • Haplotype
  • Heteroplasmy
  • Host–parasite