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Keywords:

  • Africanized honeybee;
  • Apis mellifera ;
  • defense;
  • Varroa

Abstract

Oceanic islands have reduced resources and natural enemies and potentially affect life history traits of arriving organisms. Among the most spectacular invasions in the Western hemisphere is that of the Africanized honeybee. We hypothesized that in the oceanic island Puerto Rico, Africanized bees will exhibit differences from the mainland population such as for defensiveness and other linked traits. We evaluated the extent of Africanization through three typical Africanized traits: wing size, defensive behavior, and resistance to Varroa destructor mites. All sampled colonies were Africanized by maternal descent, with over 65% presence of European alleles at the S-3 nuclear locus. In two assays evaluating defense, Puerto Rican bees showed low defensiveness similar to European bees. In morphology and resistance to mites, Africanized bees from Puerto Rico are similar to other Africanized bees. In behavioral assays on mechanisms of resistance to Varroa, we directly observed that Puerto Rican Africanized bees groomed-off and bit the mites as been observed in other studies. In no other location, Africanized bees have reduced defensiveness while retaining typical traits such as wing size and mite resistance. This mosaic of traits that has resulted during the invasion of an oceanic island has implications for behavior, evolution, and agriculture.