Brood-cell size does not influence the susceptibility of honey bees (Apis mellifera) to infestation by tracheal mites (Acarapis woodi)

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Tracheal mites have been associated with the condition in honey bees that devastated colonies in Britain and Ireland in the early 1900s. The first outbreak of this condition, that became known as the ‘Isle of Wight’ disease, coincided with the period when brood-cell size was increased from about 5.0 mm to about 5.5 mm in width. We undertook an inoculation experiment over a 7-day period to establish if the act of increasing the brood-cell size could have triggered the onset of tracheal mites in honey bees. The standard-sized cells used had a cell width of 5.44 mm and the small-sized cells a width of 5.07 mm. Using callow (newly emerged) bees, from three colonies that had mixed cell sizes, we compared the susceptibility of bees reared in standard-sized cells with that of those raised in small-sized cells. The results indicated similar levels of female mite abundance (0.49 vs. 0.52 mites per bee) and mean fecundity (4.33 vs. 4.22 offspring per female mite), and produced no evidence of any difference in the overall susceptibility between the bees raised in the standard-sized cells versus small-sized brood cells.

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