Effects of the Varroa destructor mite on Apis mellifera drones at congregation areas under contrasting parasitism and landscapes

We expect the results of this project to have a strong impact on the sanitary and reproductive management of honeybee colonies.

Male bee parasitized by the Varroa destructor mite. Abeja macho parasitado por el ácaro Varroa destructor. Foto: Copyright Wikimedia Commons


SUMMARY: The survival of Apis mellifera colonies is currently compromised by the action of multiple abiotic and biotic stress factors, which generally act synergistically. In recent decades, the high prevalence of the Varroa destructor mite in colonies has generated concern among producers and has encouraged scientists to study and develop strategies to minimize its impact. Typically, disease monitoring is carried out in colonies, but it does not include drones, which congregate in high densities in Drone Congregation Areas (DCA), where they mate with virgin queens from various colonies during the mating season. Evaluating the potential of these DCA as permanent sites for monitoring the health of A. mellifera in Argentina represents a practical, promising, and novel approach that has not yet been explored in the region or the world.

The objective of this project is to study the interaction between drones and the ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor from a chemical and environmental perspective and to evaluate to what extent drone parasitism influences variables associated with the reproductive success of Apis mellifera. To do this, we will use different descriptive and experimental approaches. In two ecoregions of Argentina, we propose to survey information on the landscape and topography of DCAs through the analysis of high-resolution satellite images and evaluate their relationship with the detected infestation levels. We will explore the flight capacity of drones parasitized by V. destructor through laboratory tests (wind tunnel) and field trials (recapture of marked parasitized individuals). We propose to evaluate queen preference for non-parasitized and parasitized drones with the mite through choice tests using a wind tunnel. Finally, we will study the changes in chemical signals emitted by parasitized drones that could explain differential selection by the queen. To do this, we will collect volatiles from parasitized and non-parasitized drones, compare their chemical profiles, and analyze possible differences between them. The integration of information generated from the different approaches described will allow for a holistic and novel approach to the complexity of the parasite-host interaction in honeybees. It will also generate recommendations for local beekeepers and queen breeders who seek to have their queens mate with healthy and biologically fit drones, maximizing the productive potential of the genetics available in our country.

RESPONSIBLE GROUP: Alberto Galindo Cardona (CONICET-FML), A. Carolina Monmany-Garzia (IER)
COLLABORATING GROUP: Alejandra C. Scannapieco, Irina Muntaabski, Romina M. Russo, Silvia B. Lanzavecchia, Fabian H. Milla, Karen M. D. Escalante
CONTACT: C. Liendo.