Researchers find genetic diversity key to survival of honey bee colonies

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Posted June 19, 2013
Researchers have found that genetic diversity, determined by the number of times a queen bee has mated, is crucial to maintaining the health of a honey bee colony. Credit: David Tarpy, North Carolina State University

Researchers have found that genetic diversity, determined by the number of times a queen bee has mated, is crucial to maintaining the health of a honey bee colony. Credit: David Tarpy, North Carolina State University

When it comes to honey bees, more mates is better. A new study from North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that genetic diversity is key to survival in honey bee colonies – meaning a colony is less likely to survive if its queen has had a limited number of mates.

“We wanted to determine whether a colony’s genetic diversity has an impact on its survival, and what that impact may be,” says Dr. David Tarpy, an associate professor of entomology at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper describing the study. “We knew genetic diversity affected survival under controlled conditions, but wanted to see if it held true in the real world. And, if so, how much diversity is needed to significantly improve a colony’s odds of surviving.”

Tarpy took genetic samples from 80 commercial colonies of honey bees (Apis mellifera) in the eastern United States to assess each colony’s genetic diversity, which reflects the number of males a colony’s queen has mated with. The more mates a queen has had, the higher the genetic diversity in the colony. The researchers then tracked the health of the colonies on an almost monthly basis over the course of 10 months – which is a full working “season” for commercial bee colonies.

Read more at: Phys.org



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