Similar hive semio chemicals simulate the host potential of African meliponine bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) to small hive beetle Aethina tumida Murray (Coleoptera: Nititulidae) infestations
Bridget O Bobadoye
Most eusocial bees especially honeybees and bumble bees are hosts of the small hive beetle (SHB) Aethina tumida, a noxious pest of domesticated and wild pollinator colonies in various parts of the world. During field surveys of meliponine bee nests in Kenya, we found small hive beetles in considerable number inside domesticated hives of the following meliponine bee species, Meliponula ferruginea (reddish-brown), Melipona bocandei and Meliponula ferruginea (black). In this study, we aimed to investigate whether the presence of small hive beetles in these meliponine bee colonies was merely coincidental or that it was largely due to attraction to similar chemical volatiles present in their hives. We determined the volatiles in comparison with African honey bees, Apis mellifera scutellata through coupled gas chromatography/mass spectrometric (GC/MS) analysis. We found that irrespective of the meliponine bee species, a high similarity between the chemical profiles of colony odours released by the three meliponine bee species and that of the African savannah honeybee Apis mellifera scutellata were identified. These included a total of eighty compounds of which seventeen are shared components and five had previously been identified as semio chemicals from honeybee odours for the small hive beetle. Our results suggest a strong plasticity in the behaviour of the small hive beetle towards this potential host and that its presence in domesticated colonies of Afro-tropical meliponine bee species may be due to attraction to honeybee-like odours inclusive of already present semio chemicals released by these meliponine colonies. These results may have future implications in the context of domesticating African meliponine bees as alternative pollinators for agricultural crops.
Bridget O Bobadoye. Similar hive semio chemicals simulate the host potential of African meliponine bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) to small hive beetle Aethina tumida Murray (Coleoptera: Nititulidae) infestations. International Journal of Entomology Research, Volume 4, Issue 4, 2019, Pages 141-147