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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Baton Rouge, Louisiana » Honey Bee Lab » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #311116

Research Project: Genetics and Breeding in Support of Honey Bee Health

Location: Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research

Title: Hybrid origins of Australian honey bees (Apis mellifera)

Author
item CHAPMAN, NADINE - University Of Sydney
item HARPUR, BROCK - York University
item Rinderer, Thomas
item ALISOPP, MICHAEL - Plant Protection Institute - South Africa
item ZAYED, AMRO - York University
item OLDROYD, BENJAMIN - University Of Sydney

Submitted to: Apidologie
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/13/2015
Publication Date: 1/1/2016
Citation: Chapman, N.C., Harpur, B.A., Rinderer, T.E., Alisopp, M.H., Zayed, A., Oldroyd, B.P. 2015. Hybrid origins of Australian honey bees (Apis mellifera). Apidologie 47(1):26-34

Interpretive Summary: The ancestral origins of feral and commercial honey bees in Australia were studied using a single nucleotide polymorphism panel that can detect the gentic contributions of Old World subspecies to the genome of decendents. Feral honey bees had a greater relationship to Western European sub-species than commercial honey bees which were more closely related to sub-species from Eastern Europe. However, both populations showed an admixture of ancestrial parentage from all importations of honey bees known from the historical record. This includes a low level of ancestry from bees of African ancestry derived from documented introductions from North Africa. This level of African ancestry is similar to that found in North American populations of feral and commercial honey bees. These results open the posibilities to import further desirable honey bees to Australia by providing a baseline of current genes found in Australian honey bees.

Technical Abstract: With increased globalisation and homogenisation the maintenance of genetic integrity of local populations of agriculturally important species is of increasing concern. The honey bee provides an interesting perspective as it is both domesticated and wild, with a large native range and much larger introduced range. In Australia it is popularly believed that the unmanaged feral honey bee (Apis mellifera) population originated from the first introductions of honey bees of the subspecies A. m. mellifera from Western Europe, while the commercial population is derived from later introductions from Eastern Europe of A. m. ligustica, A. m. carnica and A. m. caucasica. In this study we employed a newly-created 96 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) test to characterise the genetic ancestry of the Australian commercial and feral honey bee populations. We found that only seven of the 206 individuals examined carried greater than 90% ancestry from just one of the four ancestral lineages of honey bee. All 199 other individuals had mixed ancestry. On average the feral population carried more alleles derived from Western Europe than the commercial population, which is dominated by alleles from Eastern Europe. Introductions of bees from from North Africa are known from the historical record, and we show here the presence of alleles of African ancestry in some Australian bees, at levels comparable to those seen in the commercial populations of European-derived bees in the United States and Canada.