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posted by janrinok on Tuesday August 11 2015, @09:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the survival-of-the-fittest dept.

A new genetics study of wild honeybees offers clues to how a population has adapted to a mite that has devastated bee colonies worldwide. The findings may aid beekeepers and bee breeders to prevent future honeybee declines.

The researchers genetically analyzed museum samples collected from wild honeybee colonies in 1977 and 2010; the bees came from Cornell University's Arnot Forest. In comparing genomes from the two time periods, the results – published Aug. 6 in Nature Communications – show clear evidence that the wild honeybee colonies experienced a genetic bottleneck - a loss of genetic diversity - when the Varroa destructor mites killed most of the bee colonies. But some colonies survived, allowing the population to rebound.

"The study is a unique and powerful contribution to understanding how honeybees have been impacted by the introduction of Varroa destructor, and how, if left alone, they can evolve resistance to this deadly parasite," said Thomas Seeley, the Horace White Professor in Biology at Cornell and the paper's senior author. Sasha Mikheyev '00 [sic], an assistant professor of ecology and evolution at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) in Japan, is the paper's first author.

More after the break.

"The paper is also a clear demonstration of the importance of museum collections, in this case the Cornell University Insect Collection, and the importance of wild places, such as Cornell's Arnot Forest," Seeley added.

In the 1970s, Seeley surveyed the population of wild colonies of honeybees (Apis mellifera) in Arnot Forest, and found 2.5 colonies per square mile. By the early 1990s, V. destructor mites had spread across the U.S. to New York state and were devastating bee colonies. The mites infest nursery cells in honeybee nests and feed on developing bees while also transferring virulent viruses.

A 2002 survey of Arnot Forest by Seeley revealed the same abundance of bee colonies as in the late 1970s, suggesting that either new colonies from beekeepers' hives had repopulated the area, or that the existing population had undergone strong natural selection and came out with good resistance.

By 2010, advances in DNA technology, used previously to stitch together fragmented DNA from Neanderthal samples, gave Mikheyev, Seeley and colleagues the tools for whole-genome sequencing and comparing museum and modern specimens.

The results revealed a huge loss in diversity of mitochondrial genes, which are passed from one generation to the next only through the female lineage. This shows that the wild population of honeybees experienced a genetic bottleneck. Such bottlenecks arise when few individuals reproduce, reducing the gene pool. "Maybe only four or five queens survived and repopulated the forest," Seeley said.


Original Submission

Related Stories

Hives With Over Half-Million Bees Burned and Drowned in Brazoria County, Tx. 24 comments

On the night of April 26th, an unknown person or persons destroyed beehives that were home to over half a million bees in Alvin, Texas.

With the advent of Colony Collapse Disorder early this millennium, and the resulting drops in bee populations across the USA, Europe, and Asia, people and organizations have been making efforts to house, protect and nurture honeybee populations for the sake of their crops, the good of the environment, or as a service to humanity at large.

Use of the land for the bees destroyed was donated by a private citizen and the location is visible to the road so passers by can watch and enjoy the bee keepers working with the bees.

Then we get people that do things like this:

Over the weekend, someone set fire to two dozen bee colonies in Alvin, Texas belonging to the Brazoria County Beekeepers Association. The perpetrator also dumped some of the bee boxes into a nearby pond.

According to one of the beekeepers:

I broke down in tears when I saw a floating brood frame in the water with bees still caring for the brood.

It is expected that the perpetrators were very likely stung and the community is on the lookout for individuals with bee stings.

Perhaps more remarkably, this is not a completely new idea. Multiple Facebook comments speak of past attacks on bees elsewhere attributed to teenagers and rival bee keepers.

We've already seen bees persevering through fire and smoke, according to beekeepers the surviving bees are stressed and many will have lost their queens, but is also possible some hives will survive.

Previous coverage of Bee troubles:
Some Honeybee Colonies Adapt in Wake of Deadly Mites
Backyard Beekeeping Now Legal in Los Angeles
Honeybees Pick Up 'Astonishing' Number of Pesticides Via Non-crop Plants
Bees Dead from Aerial Zika Spraying in South Carolina
Pesticide Companies' Own Secret Tests Showed Their Products Harm Bees
Extensive Study Concludes Neonicotinoid Pesticides Harm Bees
EU Bans Outdoor Use of Pesticides That Harm Bees


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11 2015, @10:32AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11 2015, @10:32AM (#221200)

    We now know the mites are the culprit for colony collapse?

    • (Score: 0, Disagree) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11 2015, @12:49PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11 2015, @12:49PM (#221238)

      It would seem they are one major contributor but in fact the collapse itself was overreported and overblown. The latest stories have seemed almost unanimous in that the populations are already at completely normal levels again and doing quite well.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Hartree on Tuesday August 11 2015, @03:41PM

      by Hartree (195) on Tuesday August 11 2015, @03:41PM (#221295)

      They're a factor in it. They put massive stress on the colonies, and weaken them. It appears that it's a combination of factors, some understood, others not well understood at all.

      We do a lot of research on honeybees where I work. Here's a link to an interview in 2013 with Gene Robinson, one of our entomologists: http://illinois.edu/lb/article/72/73513 [illinois.edu]

      Another is a bit older, and is more just illustrating the type of work Robinson and our head of entomology, May Berenbaum do: http://news.illinois.edu/news/09/0824colonycollapse.html [illinois.edu]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11 2015, @07:31PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11 2015, @07:31PM (#221393)

        ...illustrating the type of work Robinson and our head of entomology, May Berenbaum ...

        Cool, thanks for posting this. May (pardon me, Dr. Berenbaum!) and I were in the same high school, she was class of '71 and I was '72). If you happen to see her, please say "Hello" from Williamsville South. I remember that she was a top science student back then for sure.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by Hartree on Tuesday August 11 2015, @08:15PM

          by Hartree (195) on Tuesday August 11 2015, @08:15PM (#221427)

          She rocks! Every year she coordinates the Insect Fear Film Festival which features all sorts of horror movies that use insects. That's a big draw.

          I've not talked to her much, (outside of hello at the snack truck), but everyone who deals with her says she's a very cool person.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Dunbal on Tuesday August 11 2015, @12:14PM

    by Dunbal (3515) on Tuesday August 11 2015, @12:14PM (#221225)

    Yet more proof that this evolution thing works and something else for the rabid bible-bashers to deny.

    • (Score: 2) by Username on Tuesday August 11 2015, @04:54PM

      by Username (4557) on Tuesday August 11 2015, @04:54PM (#221320)

      More proof that climate change isn’t a big deal either.

  • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Tuesday August 11 2015, @01:08PM

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Tuesday August 11 2015, @01:08PM (#221243) Journal

    How conceivable is it that other species will step in to fill the void as pollinators? I haven't seen many bees in my garden this year, but I'm seeing lots of strange varieties of flies and other no-see-ums, and stuff is getting pollinated.

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.
    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday August 11 2015, @02:31PM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 11 2015, @02:31PM (#221269) Homepage Journal

      I don't place the likelihood extremely high. Next to bees, the best pollinators are butterflies. Flies have never been noted as reliable pollinators. A couple of wasp species frequent some of the plants, primarily because they expect to find prey there. Wasps are kinda hairy, so they manage to do a little pollinating, but again, not reliable.

      But, back to butterflies. They're more sensitive to pesticides and garden chemicals than bees. People routinely dust their gardens with deadly butterfly poison.

      Speaking of which - there's a pretty thistle bush outside the window, which I can see from the computer desk. That thing bloomed - I dunno - two, three weeks ago. Now it's just a bunch of down drooping from the tops of the leaves. I sat here, and watched hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, wasps, and assorted unidentifiable gnats, midges, and whatever visit that flowering thistle.

      The wife hated the idea that a thistle was growing near the house, but I enjoyed watching the visitors come and go. Her moonflowers (also visible from my desk) didn't get that kind of traffic!

      Plant those wild flowers, and you'll see lots of butterflies, as well as the bees!

      --
      Don’t confuse the news with the truth.
      • (Score: 2) by gnuman on Tuesday August 11 2015, @04:19PM

        by gnuman (5013) on Tuesday August 11 2015, @04:19PM (#221302)

        The wife hated the idea that a thistle was growing near the house,

        And here's the real problem. People destroy everything. Dow Chemical truly won in their quest to sell more crap.

        https://youtu.be/D3OCUYAZZwE?t=1114 [youtu.be]

    • (Score: 2) by gnuman on Tuesday August 11 2015, @04:26PM

      by gnuman (5013) on Tuesday August 11 2015, @04:26PM (#221305)

      How conceivable is it that other species will step in to fill the void as pollinators?

      Other species will not "step in". Bees are pollinators because they collect pollen from many plants and store it. Flies don't do that. Mosquito don't do that.

      Some plants rely almost 100% on bees to bear fruit. No bees, no food. It's kind of that simple. Just as an example,

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucumber#Flowering_and_pollination [wikipedia.org]

  • (Score: 1) by acp_sn on Tuesday August 11 2015, @11:37PM

    by acp_sn (5254) on Tuesday August 11 2015, @11:37PM (#221493)

    "Varroa destructor mites" sounds like a 40K Tyranid or Necron unit