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Exp Appl Acarol. 2010 Apr;50(4):281-97. doi: 10.1007/s10493-009-9325-4. Epub 2009 Oct 23.

Reproductive biology of Varroa destructor in Africanized honey bees (Apis mellifera).

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  • 1Centro de Investigaciones Apícolas Tropicales, Universidad Nacional, PO Box 475-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica. rcalder@una.ac.cr


Since its first contact with Apis mellifera, the population dynamics of the parasitic mite Varroa destructor varies from one region to another. In many regions of the world, apiculture has come to depend on the use of acaricides, because of the extensive damage caused by varroa to bee colonies. At present, the mite is considered to contribute to the recent decline of honey bee colonies in North America and Europe. Because in tropical climates worker brood rearing and varroa reproduction occurs all year round, it could be expected that here the impact of the parasite will be even more devastating. Yet, this has not been the case in tropical areas of South America. In Brazil, varroa was introduced more than 30 years ago and got established at low levels of infestation, without causing apparent damage to apiculture with Africanized honey bees (AHB). The tolerance of AHB to varroa is apparently attributable, at least in part, to resistance in the bees. The low fertility of this parasite in Africanized worker brood and the grooming and hygienic behavior of the bees are referred as important factors in keeping mite infestation low in the colonies. It has also been suggested that the type of mite influences the level of tolerance in a honey bee population. The Korea haplotype is predominant in unbalanced host-parasite systems, as exist in Europe, whereas in stable systems, as in Brazil, the Japan haplotype used to predominate. However, the patterns of varroa genetic variation have changed in Brazil. All recently sampled mites were of the Korea haplotype, regardless whether the mites had reproduced or not. The fertile mites on AHB in Brazil significantly increased from 56% in the 1980s to 86% in recent years. Nevertheless, despite the increased fertility, no increase in mite infestation rates in the colonies has been detected so far. A comprehensive literature review of varroa reproduction data, focusing on fertility and production of viable female mites, was conducted to provide insight into the Africanized bee host-parasite relationship.

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