University of Oulu

Conlon, BH, Kastally, C, Kardell, M, Kefuss, J, Moritz, RFA, Routtu, J. Selection for outbreeding in Varroa parasitising resistant honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies. Ecol Evol. 2020; 10: 7806– 7811.

Selection for outbreeding in Varroa parasitising resistant honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies

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Author: Conlon, Benjamin H.1,2; Kastally, Chedly1,3; Kardell, Marina1;
Organizations: 1Molecular Ecology, Institute of Biology/Zoology, Martin‐Luther‐University Halle‐Wittenberg, Halle an der Saale, Germany
2Section for Ecology and Evolution, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
3Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
4Le Rucher D'Oc, Toulouse, France
5Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-10-15


Parasitism is expected to select for counter‐adaptations in the host: driving a coevolutionary arms race. However, human interference between honey bees (Apis mellifera) and Varroa mites removes the effect of natural selection and restricts the evolution of host counter‐adaptations. With full‐sibling mating common among Varroa, this can rapidly select for virulent, highly inbred, Varroa populations. We investigated how the evolution of host resistance could affect the infesting population of Varroa mites.

We screened a Varroa‐resistant honey bee population near Toulouse, France, for a Varroa resistance trait: the inhibition of Varroa’s reproduction in drone pupae. We then genotyped Varroa which had co‐infested a cell using microsatellites. Across all resistant honey bee colonies, Varroa’s reproductive success was significantly higher in co‐infested cells but the distribution of Varroa between singly and multiply infested cells was not different from random. While there was a trend for increased reproductive success when Varroa of differing haplotypes co‐infested a cell, this was not significant. This suggests local mate competition, through the presence of another Varroa foundress in a pupal cell, may be enough to help Varroa overcome host resistance traits; with a critical mass of infesting Varroa overwhelming host resistance. However, the fitness trade‐offs associated with preferentially co‐infesting cells may be too high for Varroa to evolve a mechanism to identify already‐infested cells. The increased reproductive success of Varroa when co‐infesting resistant pupal cells may act as a release valve on the selective pressure for the evolution of counter resistance traits: helping to maintain a stable host–parasite relationship.

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Series: Ecology and evolution
ISSN: 2045-7758
ISSN-E: 2045-7758
ISSN-L: 2045-7758
Volume: 10
Issue: 14
Pages: 7806 - 7811
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6506
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Research was funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (RO 5121/1‐1 to J.R.). Publication costs were financially supported by the Open Access Publication Fund of the Martin‐Luther‐University Halle‐Wittenberg.
Copyright information: © 2020 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.