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Within- and across-colony effects of hyperpolyandry on immune function and body condition in honey bees (Apis mellifera)

Wilson-Rich, Noah, Tarpy, David R., Starks, Philip T.
Journal of insect physiology 2012 v.58 no.3 pp. 402-407
Apis mellifera, body condition, disease resistance, encapsulation, fat body, genetic variation, honey bees, males, monophenol monooxygenase, polyandry
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) have become a model system for studies on the influence of genetic diversity on disease. Honey bee queens mate with a remarkably high number of males—up to 29 in the current study—from which they produce a colony of genetically diverse daughter workers. Recent evidence suggests a significant benefit of intracolony genetic diversity on disease resistance. Here, we explored the relationship between the level of genetic diversity and multiple physiological mechanisms of cellular and humoral immune defense (encapsulation response and phenoloxidase activity). We also investigated an effect of genetic diversity on a measure of body condition (fat body mass). While we predicted that mean colony phenoloxidase activity, encapsulation response, and fat body mass would show a positive relationship with increased intracolonial genetic diversity, we found no significant relationship between genetic diversity and these immune measures, and found no consistent effect on body condition. These results suggest that high genetic diversity as a result of extreme polyandry may have little bearing on the physiological mechanisms of immune function at naturally occurring mating levels in honey bees.