Varroa destructor infestation impairs the improvement of landing performance in foraging honeybees

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Abstract

The parasitic mite Varroa destructor is an important contributor to the high losses of western honeybees. Forager bees from Varroa-infested colonies show reduced homing and flight capacity; it is not known whether flight manoeuvrability and related learning capability are also affected. Here, we test how honeybees from Varroa-infested and control colonies fly in an environment that is unfamiliar at the beginning of each experimental day. Using stereoscopic high-speed videography, we analysed 555 landing manoeuvres recorded during 12 days of approximately 5 h in length. From this, we quantified landing success as percentage of successful landings, and assessed how this changed over time. We found that the forager workforce of Varroa-infested colonies did not improve their landing success over time, while for control bees landing success improved with approximately 10% each hour. Analysis of the landing trajectories showed that control bees improved landing success by increasing the ratio between in-flight aerodynamic braking and braking at impact on the landing platform; bees from Varroa-infested colonies did not increase this ratio over time. The Varroa-induced detriment to this landing skill-learning capability might limit forager bees from Varroa-infested colonies to adapt to new or challenging conditions; this might consequently contribute to Varroa-induced mortality of honeybee colonies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number201222
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume7
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sep 2020

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