Wild Honey Bees Evolve Rapidly to Overcome New Disease; Dopamine Receptor Gene (Aversion Learning & Grooming) and Numerous Developmental Genes Altered; Bees Are Also Smaller and Wings Are Different

An international research team has some good news for the struggling honeybee, and the millions of people who depend on them to pollinate crops and other plants. These valuable pollinators have faced widespread colony losses over the past decade, largely due to the spread of a predatory mite called Varroa destructor. But the bees might not be in as dire a state as it seems, according to research recently published in Nature Communications. Researchers found a population of wild bees from around Ithaca, New York, which is as strong today as ever, despite the mites invading the region in the mid-1990s. “They took a hit, but they recovered,” said Dr. Alexander Mikheyev, a professor at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in Japan and lead paper author. The research was published online on August 9, 2015 in an open-access article in Nature Communications. The article is titled “Museum Samples Reveal Rapid Evolution by Wild Honey Bees Exposed to a Novel Parasite.” “The population appears to have developed genetic resistance.” Dr. Mikheyev and his collaborators at OIST and Cornell University studied the population genetics of the wild colony by comparing the DNA of specimens collected in 1977 with bees collected from the same forest in 2010. To conduct the study, they developed a new DNA analysis tool that works especially well for degraded DNA stored in museum samples. Such a study is extremely rare, especially with bees. Few people collect them, and even fewer collect in a way that is good enough for a population level study. Luckily, Cornell Professor Tom Seeley worked in this area during his Ph.D., and deposited his samples in the Cornell University Insect Collection.
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