Research Article

Assessing hygienic behavior of Apis mellifera unicolor (Hymenoptera: Apidae), the endemic honey bee from Madagascar

Published: June 01, 2015
Genet. Mol. Res. 14 (2) : 5879-5889 DOI: 10.4238/2015.June.1.5

Abstract

Hygienic behavior (HB) is one of the natural mechanisms of honey bee for limiting the spread of brood diseases and Varroa destructor parasitic mite. Objective of our study was to measure HB of Apis mellifera unicolor colonies (N = 403) from three geographic regions (one infested and two free of V. destructor) in Madagascar. The pin-killing method was used for evaluation of the HB. Responses were measured from 3 h 30 min to 7 h after perforation of the cells. Colonies were very effective in detecting perforated cells. In the first 4 h, on average, they detected at least 50% of the pin-killed brood. Six hours after cell perforation, colonies tested (N = 91) showed a wide range of uncapped (0 to 100%) and cleaned cells (0 to 82%). Global distribution of the rate of cleaned cells at 6 h was multimodal and hygienic responses could be split in three classes. Colonies from the three regions showed a significant difference in HB responses. Three hypotheses (geographic, genetic traits, presence of V. destructor) are further discussed to explain variability of HB responses among the regions. Levels of HB efficiency of A. mellifera unicolor colonies are among the greatest levels reported for A. mellifera subspecies. Presence of highly hygienic colonies is a great opportunity for future breeding program in selection for HB.

Hygienic behavior (HB) is one of the natural mechanisms of honey bee for limiting the spread of brood diseases and Varroa destructor parasitic mite. Objective of our study was to measure HB of Apis mellifera unicolor colonies (N = 403) from three geographic regions (one infested and two free of V. destructor) in Madagascar. The pin-killing method was used for evaluation of the HB. Responses were measured from 3 h 30 min to 7 h after perforation of the cells. Colonies were very effective in detecting perforated cells. In the first 4 h, on average, they detected at least 50% of the pin-killed brood. Six hours after cell perforation, colonies tested (N = 91) showed a wide range of uncapped (0 to 100%) and cleaned cells (0 to 82%). Global distribution of the rate of cleaned cells at 6 h was multimodal and hygienic responses could be split in three classes. Colonies from the three regions showed a significant difference in HB responses. Three hypotheses (geographic, genetic traits, presence of V. destructor) are further discussed to explain variability of HB responses among the regions. Levels of HB efficiency of A. mellifera unicolor colonies are among the greatest levels reported for A. mellifera subspecies. Presence of highly hygienic colonies is a great opportunity for future breeding program in selection for HB.