Genes May Tell a Lot About the Secret Lives of
Bees By Alfredo
Flores January 3, 2007
Despite the fact that bees are one of the most beneficial insects in
the world, much of their behavior remains a mystery--even to the apiculturists
who tend them. To better understand such fundamental processes as reproduction,
and cope with problems such as bee mites and diseases, scientists are at work
on a state-of-the-art genomics resource.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist
Evans and colleagues at ARS'
Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., are working with National
Institutes of Health (NIH) collaborators on
what's called the Honey Bee Genome Project. Since the unveiling of the bee's
entire genome in early 2005, the project has proved to be a significant new
source of information about genes suspected of involvement with various honey
Using quantitative genetic approaches and gene knockdown and
expression studies, the Beltsville scientists are assessing the functions of
various candidate genes. So far, some 150 honey bee genes have been selected
for analysis by Evans and his team. The team is currently developing databases
to manage the new wealth of information that is coming in.
One of the databases, called "BeeBase" and funded by
NIH, is a dedicated analysis-and-display environment for the honey bee genome
that's headed by scientists at Texas A&M
University. BeeBase also gives users the genome sequences for two key honey
bee pathogens, Paenibacillus larvae and Ascosphaera
apisboth genomic projects led by ARS.
Honey bees pollinate about 130 fruit, vegetable, nut, ornamental and
fiber crops in the United States and contribute approximately $15 billion
annually to the national economy through improved crop yields and product
information about this research is published in the current issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.