Behavioral Responses of Apis mellifera Adult Workers to Odors from Healthy Brood and Diseased Brood

HongXia Zhao, Qin Liang, JiangHong Lee, XueFeng Zhang, WenZhong Huang, HuaSheng Cheng, YueXiong Luo


Studies of adult workers’ responses to infected brood were undertaken to isolate discrete volatile compounds that elicited honeybee hygienic behavior. Using a freeze-killed brood assay, we determined that in healthy colonies adult workers recognized and emptied infected cells with a 95% clearance rate. SPME-GC-MS results emptied >95% infected cells indicated differences in the composition and relative content of volatile compounds released by healthy and diseased brood. Additionally, we determined that the main volatile compound released from the pathogen Ascosphaera apis was phenethyl alcohol. The Y-tube olfactometer indicated that 10- to 20-day-old workers of healthy colonies, but only 15-day-old workers of diseased colonies, were significantly sensitive to differences in characteristic volatile compounds. This information could facilitate honey bee selection based on mechanisms that contribute to chalkbrood disease tolerance.

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