Comparative colony development of Africanized and European honey bees (Apis mellifera) in lowland neotropical Yucatan, Mexico
Carlos Mechazarreta; Robert J Paxton
We recorded the annual schedules of brood production and comb construction in Africanized (AHB) and European (EHB) honey bee colonies in the lowland neotropical Yucatan peninsula, Mexico, across complete calendar years in colonies given an Unrestricted cavity volume. Total areas of worker and drone capped brood and areas of worker- and drone-sized wax cells constructed in a ‘test frame' were quantified at regular intervals. The brood production and comb construction schedules of both bee types all showed a single annual peak between December and June, the dry season and the period of greatest resource abundance. The peak of worker and drone brood production in AHB colonies preceded those of worker and drone brood production respectively in EHB colonies. However, over the year, EHB colonies contained slightly more capped worker brood and the same amount of capped drone brood as AHB colonies. The estimated annual production of imagine workers and drones was similar in the two bee types, averaging 68 250 workers and 3650 drones. The relationship between the amount of capped drone brood to capped worker brood in a colony was similar for the two bee types, suggesting that similar factors influenced drone brood production in AHB and EHB colonies. The differences between bee types in their schedules of wax comb construction were less clear, though EHB colonies constructed a greater total amount of comb, and AHB colonies constructed more drone comb. AHB colonies built up faster than EHB colonies, and AHB colonies invested less in colony maintenance (comb construction) than EHB colonies in Yucatan. Our results contradict other comparative studies of AHB and EHB colonies as we found that the differences between bee types in their total annual production of drones and workers were slight or non-existent, possibly reflecting the unlimited cavity volumes offered to both bee types in our study, or the local provenance of the EHB colonies. These results suggest that AHB colonies may prove useful in commercial and rural small-scale beekeeping operations in the neotropics when they are given unlimited cavity volumes in which to expand their brood nest as their survival and propensity to swarm may then be similar to those of EHB. However, we did not measure the honey production of colonies and any potential advantages of using AHB in beekeeping operations will have to be weighed against the disadvantages imposed by the greater defensiveness of AHB and their more rapid colony development which demand more frequent colony inspections.