Mike Allsopp, ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, P/Bag X5017, Stellenbosch 7599 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
An "information day" was held in Pretoria in July 2003 for researchers to present latest findings to beekeepers and researchers alike, and also for researchers to search for common ground on the issues of the day, in particular the "Capensis Problem". I had hoped that we had achieved this objective but the article by Kryger et a/. in the latest issue of the South African Bee Journal ("Have we found a solution to the Capensis Problem?"; volume 75(4), pages 123-128) clearly demonstrates that this is not the case. This is an attempt to provide the other side of the story, an alternative explanation if you will.
The explanation espoused by Kryger and colleagues, in numerous articles and presentations, is essentially the following:
The Capensis Problem was caused by the pseudo-clone, the descendants of a single worker bee. Note: caused by the pseudo-clone, and not by capensis. In their explanation, without the pseudo-clone there would be no Capensis Problem.
The pseudo-clone represents a specialized social parasite, a mutant form of capensis. The pseudo-clone is in the process of becoming a new species, "evolution in the making". The pseudo-clone threatens scutellata with extinction, and capensis with re-invasion. Other possible factors in the Capensis Problem such as the production of capensis queens and drones, mating to produce hybrids, the invasion of colonies by
queen less swarms, or colony founding by queen less swarms, are dismissed as "myths".
What evidence is there to support this explanation? As far as I am aware, the only evidence is that which indicates that the capensis worker bees currently in infected colonies are extremely closely related, essentially all the descendants of a single worker ancestor, hence the "pseudo-clone". [There is some evidence that they are the descendants of a few worker ancestors, but this is essentially the same thing]. This is clearly a hugely significant scientific discovery, but the point is that this is the present situation, after ten years and more of the Capensis Problem. Does this mean that the pseudo-clone caused the Capensis Problem?
I submit that a better explanation is the pseudo-clone is a consequence, albeit a remarkable one, of the Capensis Problem,
and not the cause. The alternative explanation that I am proposing suggests that there have been two phases to the Capensis Problem.
Phase I would be made up by the following:
(Full article available in SABJ Vol 76 no. 1)