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Evidence for passive chemical camouflage in the parasitic mite Varroa destructor

Kather, R, Drijfhout, FP, Shemilt, S and Martin, SJ 2015, 'Evidence for passive chemical camouflage in the parasitic mite Varroa destructor' , Journal of Chemical Ecology, 41 (2) , pp. 178-186.

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Abstract

Social insect colonies provide a stable and safe environment for their members. Despite colonies been heavily guarded, parasites have evolved numerous strategies to invade and inhabit these hostile places. Two common strategies are chemical mimicry via biosynthesis of the hosts' odour or chemical camouflage were compounds are acquired straight from the host. The ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor feeds on the heamolymph of its honeybee host Apis mellifera and uses chemical mimicry to remain undetected as it lives on the adult host during its phoretic phase or while reproducing on the honeybee brood. During the mite life cycle it switches between host adults and brood, which requires it to adjust its profile to mimic the very different odours of honeybee brood and adults. In a series of transfer experiments using adult bees and pupae, we tested whether V. destructor does this by synthesising compounds or using chemical camouflage. We show that V. destructor required direct access to the host cuticle to mimic its odour and was unable to synthesise host-specific compounds itself. Mites use chemical camouflage to mimic the host odour, even when dead, indicating a passive physico-chemical mechanism of the parasite cuticle. The chemical profile of V. destructor was adjusted within three to nine hours after switching hosts, demonstrating that passive camouflage is a highly efficient, fast and flexible way for the mite’s to adapt to a new host's profile when moving between different host life stages, or host colonies.

Item Type: Article
Themes: Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences > Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Chemical Ecology
Publisher: Kluwer
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 0098-0331
Related URLs:
Funders: Biotechnology and Biosciences Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), East Anglian Beekeepers (EARS)
Depositing User: SJ Martin
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2015 15:36
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2016 01:38
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/34977

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