Royal Society Publishing

The invasive Korea and Japan types of Varroa destructor, ectoparasitic mites of the Western honeybee (Apis mellifera), are two partly isolated clones

Michel Solignac, Jean–Marie Cornuet, Dominique Vautrin, Yves Le Conte, Denis Anderson, Jay Evans, Sandrine Cros-Arteil, Maria Navajas


Varroa destructor, now a major pest of the Western honeybee, Apis mellifera, switched from its original host, the Eastern honeybee, A. cerana, ca. 50 years ago. So far, only two out of several known mitochondrial haplotypes of V. destructor have been found to be capable of reproducing on A. mellifera (Korea and Japan). These haplotypes are associated in almost complete cytonuclear disequilibrium to diagnostic alleles at 11 microsatellite loci. By contrast, microsatellite polymorphism within each type is virtually absent, because of a severe bottleneck at the time of host change. Accordingly, 12 mitochondrial sequences of 5185 nucleotides displayed 0.40% of nucleotide divergence between haplotypes and no intra haplotype variation. Hence, each type has a quasi–clonal structure. The nascent intratype variability is subsequent to the clone formation 50 years ago: in both types the variant alleles differ from the most common by one (in 10 cases), two (five cases) or three (one case) repeated motifs. In addition to individuals of the two ‘pure’ types, five F1 hybrids and 19 recombinant individuals (Japan alleles introgressed into the Korea genetic background) were detected. The existence of F1 and recombinant individuals in admixed populations requires that double infestations of honeybee cells occur in a high proportion but the persistence of pure types suggests a post–zygotic isolation between the two clones.