Antennae hold a key to Varroa-sensitive hygiene behaviour in honey bees
1 INRA, UR 406 Abeilles et Environnement, 84914 Avignon Cedex 09, France
2 Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
3 MGX – Montpellier GenomiX, Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle, 141 rue de la Cardonille, 34094, Montpellier Cedex 05, France
In honey bees, Varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH) behaviour, which involves the detection and removal of brood parasitised by the mite Varroa destructor, can actively participate in the survival of colonies facing Varroa outbreaks. This study investigated the mechanisms of VSH behaviour, by comparing the antennal transcriptomes of bees that do and do not perform VSH behaviour. Results indicate that antennae likely play a key role in the expression of VSH behaviour. Comparisons with the antennal transcriptome of nurse and forager bees suggest that VSH profile is more similar to that of nurse bees than foragers. Enhanced detection of certain odorants in VSH bees may be predicted from transcriptional patterns, as well as a higher metabolism and antennal motor activity. Interestingly, Deformed wing virus/Varroa destructor virus infections were detected in the antennae, with higher level in non-VSH bees; a putative negative impact of viral infection on bees’ ability to display VSH behaviour is proposed. These results bring new perspectives to the understanding of VSH behaviour and the evolution of collective defence by focusing attention on the importance of the peripheral nervous system. In addition, such data might be useful for promoting marker-assisted selection of honey bees that can survive Varroa infestations.