Honey Bee Genome


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Recently the honey bee genome was sequenced. Several other insect genomes have also been sequenced, including a species of fruit fly and mosquito. The fruit fly is a well established model organism used in the study of development, genetics and a variety of other fields. Mosquitoes are of interest because they are carriers for the malaria parasite, and have a huge impact on human health. The honey bee may seem like an odd choice in comparison to these other insects, however, honey bees provide a model system for studying social behavior and a variety of health related issue, and have a major economic impact through agriculture.

Based on the genome, scientists have already determined where honey bees originated and how they spread to Europe and North America, and that honey bees devote a large number of genes to smell. An interesting study provides information about how genetics control how individual bees change their behaviors in response to the needs of the hive. This study may give clues about genetic regulation of social behavior which may have implications in studies of human behavior as well. Study of the honey bee is also important because honey bee populations have been declining recently. Loss of honey bees would be devastating to agriculture as they play a major role in pollination.

Sequencing genomes may not seem like a particularly evolutionary activity, but this kind of raw data can be used very effectively in comparison studies to identify closely related species. For an important species like honey bees, understanding where they came from and identifying related species can improve our ability to care for and breed bees.

Secrets revealed in sequencing of honey bee genome
By James Kloeppel

Cyberbee Site
by Zachary Huang, Dept. of Entomology at Michigan State University
Contains information about honey bees, from recent research to beekeeping.

Honeybee Genome May Shed Light on Social Evolution
By David Brown, Washington Post October 30, 2006

Hive Mentality: Researchers Create Buzz Over Social Behavior Genetics
ASU, October 29, 2006

More on Bees
Oldest-Ever Bee Found in Amber
National Geographic

Buzz Kill: Wild Bees and Flowers Disappearing, Study Says
By John Roach, National Geographic, July 21, 2006

Bees' Buzzes Warn of Chemicals
By Stephan Lovgren, National Geographic, March 13, 2007

In Hollywood Hives, Males Rule
By Natalie Angier, New York Times, Nov. 14, 2007