Temporal genetic structure of feral honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in a coastal prairie habitat of southern Texas: impact of Africanization
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The goal of this study was to examine the impact of Africanization on the genetic structure of the Welder Wildlife Refuge feral honey bee population by scoring mtDNA and microsatellite polymorphisms. Adult honey bee workers, collected between 1991 and 2001, were screened for mtDNA using the cytochrome b/BglII, ls rRNA/EcoRI, and COI/HinfI PCR-based assays. The procedure allowed identification of four mitotypes: eastern European, western European, A. m. lamarckii, and A. m. scutellata. The relative frequencies of the four mitotypes changed radically during the 11-year period. Prior to immigration of Africanized honey bees, the resident population was essentially of eastern European maternal ancestry. The first colony of A. m. scutellata mitotype was detected in 1993. Between 1995 and 1996 there was a mitotype turnover in the population from predominantly eastern European to predominantly A. m. scutellata. From 1997 onward, most colonies (69 %) were of A. m. scutellata mitotype. The temporal change in mtDNA was paralleled by nuclear DNA. The 12 microsatellite loci analyzed indicated (1) the mechanism of Africanization of the Welder population involved both maternal and paternal bi-directional gene flow (hybridization) between European and Africanized honey bees; and (2) the resident panmitic European population was replaced by panmitic asymmetrical admixtures of A. m. scutellata and European genes. The steepest increase in the proportion of introgressed A. m. scutellata nuclear alleles occurred between 1994 and 1997. The post-Africanization gene pool was composed of a diverse array of recombinant classes with a substantial European genetic contribution (mean proportion of European-derived alleles was 37 % as given by mR estimator or 25 % as given by mY estimator, for 1998-2001). If European genes continue to be retained at moderate frequencies, then the Africanized population is best viewed as a "hybrid swarm" instead of "pure African". The most radical change in the genetic structure of the Welder Wildlife Refuge feral honey bee population (observed between 1995 and 1997) coincided with arrival of the parasitic Varroa mite. We suggest that Varroa likely hastened the demise of European honey bees and had a major role in restructuring the Welder Wildlife Refuge feral honey bee population.
Pinto, Maria Alice (2003). Temporal genetic structure of feral honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in a coastal prairie habitat of southern Texas: impact of Africanization. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from