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Article

Cuticular Hydrocarbon Profile of Parasitic Beetles, Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae)

1
Vetsuisse Faculty, Institute of Bee Health, University of Bern, 3003 Bern, Switzerland
2
Agroscope, Swiss Bee Research Centre, 3097 Bern, Switzerland
3
Dipartimento di Biologia, Università di Firenze, Via Madonna del Piano 6, Sesto Fiorentino, 50019 Firenze, Italy
4
Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Shared first authorship.
Academic Editor: Raquel Martín-Hernández
Insects 2021, 12(8), 751; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12080751
Received: 16 July 2021 / Revised: 12 August 2021 / Accepted: 16 August 2021 / Published: 19 August 2021
Social insects use cuticular hydrocarbons for chemical recognition and communication. Cuticular hydrocarbons can also be exploited by parasites to their advantage for undermining host recognition systems. The small hive beetle (SHB) is a parasite of honey bee colonies but can also infest nests of other bee species. However, its chemical profile is still not known. For the first time, the present study investigated the SHB chemical profile and compared it with that of its honey bee host. The results show that the SHB has a low chemical profile that is similar to its honey bee host’s. However, while honey bees had a clear colony-specific chemical profile, SHBs did not. The generic chemical profile of the SHB is most likely linked to its free-flying behaviour in the field as these parasites are known to switch between host colonies, possibly limiting the acquisition of a colony specific chemical profile. Our findings also suggest that SHBs do not exploit any finely tuned chemical strategy to conceal their presence inside host colonies and probably rely on behavioural adaptations.
Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) cover insects’ bodies and play important roles in chemical communication, including nestmate recognition, for social insects. To enter colonies of a social host species, parasites may acquire host-specific CHCs or covertly maintain their own CHC profile by lowering its quantity. However, the chemical profile of small hive beetles (SHBs), Aethina tumida, which are parasites of honey bee, Apis mellifera, colonies, and other bee nests, is currently unknown. Here, adults of SHB and honey bee host workers were collected from the same field colonies and their CHC profiles were analysed using GC-MS. The chemical profiles of field-sampled SHBs were also compared with those of host-naive beetles reared in the laboratory. Laboratory-reared SHBs differed in their CHC profiles from field-sampled ones, which showed a more similar, but ten-fold lower, generic host CHC profile compared to host workers. While the data confirm colony-specific CHCs of honey bee workers, the profile of field-collected SHBs was not colony-specific. Adult SHBs often commute between different host colonies, thereby possibly preventing the acquisition of a colony-specific CHC profiles. An ester was exclusive to both groups of SHBs and might constitute an intraspecific recognition cue. Our data suggest that SHBs do not use any finely tuned chemical strategy to conceal their presence inside host colonies and instead probably rely on their hard exoskeleton and defence behaviours. View Full-Text
Keywords: Aethina tumida; Apis mellifera; chemical profile; honey bee; nestmate recognition; parasite Aethina tumida; Apis mellifera; chemical profile; honey bee; nestmate recognition; parasite
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MDPI and ACS Style

Papach, A.; Cappa, F.; Cervo, R.; Dapporto, L.; Balusu, R.; Williams, G.R.; Neumann, P. Cuticular Hydrocarbon Profile of Parasitic Beetles, Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae). Insects 2021, 12, 751. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12080751

AMA Style

Papach A, Cappa F, Cervo R, Dapporto L, Balusu R, Williams GR, Neumann P. Cuticular Hydrocarbon Profile of Parasitic Beetles, Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae). Insects. 2021; 12(8):751. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12080751

Chicago/Turabian Style

Papach, Anna, Federico Cappa, Rita Cervo, Leonardo Dapporto, Rammohan Balusu, Geoffrey R. Williams, and Peter Neumann. 2021. "Cuticular Hydrocarbon Profile of Parasitic Beetles, Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae)" Insects 12, no. 8: 751. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12080751

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