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Mol Ecol. 2014 Mar;23(5):1096-107. doi: 10.1111/mec.12669. Epub 2014 Feb 24.

Reproductive interference between honeybee species in artificial sympatry.

Author information

1
Behaviour and Genetics of Social Insects Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences A12, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia.

Abstract

Reproductive isolation between closely related species is often incomplete. The Western honeybee, Apis mellifera, and the Eastern hive bee, Apis cerana, have been allopatric for millions of years, but are nonetheless similar in morphology and behaviour. During the last century, the two species were brought into contact anthropogenically, providing potential opportunities for interspecific matings. Hybrids between A. mellifera and A. cerana are inviable, so natural interspecific matings are of concern because they may reduce the viability of A. cerana and A. mellifera populations - two of the world's most important pollinators. We examined the mating behaviour of A. mellifera and A. cerana queens and drones from Caoba Basin, China and Cairns, Australia. Drone mating flight times overlap in both areas. Analysis of the spermathecal contents of queens with species-specific genetic markers indicated that in Caoba Basin, 14% of A. mellifera queens mated with at least one A. cerana male, but we detected no A. cerana queens that had mated with A. mellifera males. Similarly, in Cairns, no A. cerana queens carried A. mellifera sperm, but one-third of A. mellifera queens had mated with at least one A. cerana male. No hybrid embryos were detected in eggs laid by interspecifically mated A. mellifera queens in either location. However, A. mellifera queens artificially inseminated with A. cerana sperm produced inviable hybrid eggs or unfertilized drones. This suggests that reproductive interference will impact the viability of honeybee populations wherever A. cerana and A. mellifera are in contact.

KEYWORDS:

Apis cerana; Apis mellifera; drone flight times; interspecific mating; mating interference; spermatheca

PMID:
24443879
DOI:
10.1111/mec.12669
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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