Effects of parasitization by Varroa destructor on survivorship and physiological traits of Apis mellifera in correlation with viral incidence and microbial challenge

X. YANG a1 and D. COX-FOSTER a1c1
a1 501 ASI Building, Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA

Article author query
yang x   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
cox-foster d   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Varroa mites (Varroa destructor) are serious ectoparasites of honey bees (Apis mellifera). This research addresses the impact of varroa mites on survivorship, viral incidence, and physiological traits of newly-emerged worker bees. RT-PCR confirmed our previous finding that varroa parasitization was linked to high levels of deformed wing virus (DWV). In non-treatment bees, varroa parasitization combined with increased viral levels altered survivorship curves from long-survival to shorter-survival types. After challenge with live Escherichia coli, the survivorship of mite-parasitized bees was significantly lower than mite-free bees. Deformed-wing, mite-parasitized bees died on average within 1 day, even without E. coli challenge. This was correlated with the absence of an important enzyme activity in insect immunity, phenol oxidase, lacking even in those bees challenged with immuno-elicitors. The lack of inducible phenol oxidase activity indicated that the bee immune system is not fully competent upon adult emergence. Varroa parasitism also significantly reduced body weight of the parasitized bees, but body weight was not significantly correlated with the survivorship of mite-parasitized bees. Our research indicates that the combination of mite parasitization, the interaction of DWV and microbes, and a developmental immune incompetency attribute to decreased worker survivorship and have a negative impact on colony fitness.

(Received April 27 2006)
(Revised October 13 2006)
(Accepted October 15 2006)
(Published Online November 2 2006)

Key Words: Apis mellifera; Varroa destructor; survivorship; deformed wing virus; phenol oxidase; immunity.

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