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Naturwissenschaften. 2006 Apr;93(4):195-9. Epub 2006 Mar 3.

Lower disease infections in honeybee (Apis mellifera) colonies headed by polyandrous vs monandrous queens.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 7613, Raleigh, NC 27695-7613, USA.


We studied the relationship between genetic diversity and disease susceptibility in honeybee colonies living under natural conditions. To do so, we created colonies in which each queen was artificially inseminated with sperm from either one or ten drones. Of the 20 colonies studied, 80% showed at least one brood disease. We found strong differences between the two types of colonies in the infection intensity of chalkbrood and in the total intensity of all brood diseases (chalkbrood, sacbrood, American foulbrood, and European foulbrood) with both variables lower for the colonies with higher genetic diversity. Our findings demonstrate that disease can be an important factor in the ecology of honeybee colonies and they provide strong support for the disease hypothesis for the evolution of polyandry by social insect queens.

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