How A Queen Bee Achieves Her Regal Status That Elevates Her From Her Sterile Worker Sisters Has Been A Long-Standing Question

CATCH THE BUZZ May 15, 2019

queen bee status.jpg

CRISPR gene-editing used to understand links between diet and genetics to make a future honey bee queen.

How a queen bee achieves her regal status that elevates her from her sterile worker sisters has been a long-standing question for scientists studying honey bees.

To get at the heart of the question, scientists have now used for the first time the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 to selectively shut off a gene for necessary for general female development.

By doing so, they have shown that a dramatic difference in gonad size between honey bee queens and their female workers in response to their distinct diets requires the switching on of a specific genetic program, according to a new study published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Arizona State University honey bee expert and School of Life Sciences Regents’ Professor Robert Page, and colleagues Annika Roth and Martin Beye of Heinrich-Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany.

“This study focused on a critically important and missing connection between nutrition and the developmental processes that make a queen,” said Page, who is also a distinguished sustainability scholar in ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. “This has been a major unanswered question in developmental biology for more than a century.”

The finding is likely to allow more detailed analysis of the interplay of genes and nutrition that drives the selection of queens from worker bees.

Queen bees differ physically from their sterile sister workers, with a much larger body and ovaries that are needed for her prime responsibility in life — to be tended to just so to produce all the future offspring in the hive. As such, future queens are fed a bee delectable, sugar-rich “royal jelly” from the time they emerge as larvae — while future workers receive relatively sugar-poor “worker jelly.” But the degree to which diet alone determines the difference in gonadal size between queen and worker has been unclear.

To explore the genetic influences on gonad size, the authors first showed that reduced sugar had no effect on male gonad size, indicating that diet isn’t the sole influence. Next, using CRISPR, they knocked out the so-called feminizer gene in early worker larvae.

With the feminizer gene turned off by CRISPR, they found that a low-sugar diet had no effect on gonad size. In fact, their gonad size was similar to those typically found in male drones. The authors conclude that the feminizer gene must be switched on not only to produce ovaries but also to permit nutrient level to affect gonad size.

“Because of the ability to rapidly screen mutations in honey bees allowed by gene editing, this study is likely to set the stage for much more extensive investigations of the role of individual genes and gene pathways in immune defense and behavioral and developmental control,” Beye said.

These results will spur further work to determine if the same gene is needed to allow development of large ovaries in future queens.

https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-how-a-queen-bee-achieves-her-regal-status-that-elevates-her-from-her-sterile-worker-sisters-has-been-a-long-standing-question

Read more - Source: https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000171

Queen Replacement: The Key to Prevent Winter Colony Losses in Argentina

International Bee Research Association - IBRA   November 24, 2016

In recent years extensive losses of honey bee colonies have led to surveys of beekeepers, with much information now coming from Europe and north America. Much less information is available about colony losses elsewhere. Now, in a new paper published in the Journal of Apicultural Research, Agostina Giacobino and colleagues at the Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria, Rafaela, Argentina describe a survey of Argentinian colony losses during the 2013-14 winter.

Varroa mite infestation, colony strength, and winter colony losses were evaluated in 62 apiaries distributed in four different regions in east-central Argentina. Data regarding management practices in each apiary were also collected by means of a questionnaire. The key result was that beekeepers who reported replacing less than 50% of the queens in their apiaries each year showed higher winter losses than apiaries who replaced more than 50% of their queens. Even considering that the winter colony losses can be explained by a complex interaction of factors, requeening appears as one of the most important management practices to reduce this phenomenon in Argentina.

The article is available here (free to view): http://www.tandfonline.com/…/…/10.1080/00218839.2016.1238595

IBRA Members taking the JAR option have access to all other papers in issue 55(4), and also have full access to all articles in the Journal of Apicultural Research back catalogue to Volume 1 in 1962. You can join IBRA here: http://www.ibrabee.org.uk/2013-05-01-02…/2014-12-12-12-06-01

How Queen Bees Control the Princesses.

Australian National University   January 29, 2016

How Queen Bees Control the Princesses. Queen Bees and Ants Emit a Chemical that actually Alters the DNA of Their Daughters and Keeps them Sterile and Industrous Workers.

Queen bees and ants emit a chemical that alters the DNA of their daughters and keeps them as sterile and industrious workers, scientists have found.

“When deprived of the pheromone that queens emit, worker bees and ants become more self-centred and lazy, and they begin to lay eggs,” said lead researcher Dr Luke Holman from The Australian National University (ANU).

“Amazingly, it looks like the queen pheromone works by chemically altering workers’ genes,” said Dr Holman, a biologist in the ANU Research School of Biology.

Queen bees and ants can have hundreds of thousands of offspring and live for many years, while workers are short-lived and mostly sterile, even though they have the same DNA as the queen.

Recent research suggests that a chemical modification to a baby bee or ant’s DNA, called DNA methylation, helps determine whether the baby develops into a queen or a worker.

Dr Holman collaborated with biologists from the University of Helsinki to investigate whether the queen’s pheromone altered DNA methylation in workers.

The team found evidence that indeed, workers exposed to pheromones tag their DNA with methylation differently, which might suppress queenly characteristics in the workers.

Surprisingly, the queen pheromone of honeybees seemed to lower methylation, while the queen pheromone of ants seemed to increase it, suggesting things work differently in bees and ants.

“Bees and ants evolved their two-tier societies independently. It would be confusing but cool if they had evolved different means to the same end,” Dr Holman said.

Dr Holman said he was looking forward to studying Australian bees next, which evolved sociality independently from the European species in this study.

“It brings us one step closer to understanding how these animals evolved their amazing cooperative behaviour, which in many ways is a step beyond human evolution,” he said.

The research is published in Biology Letters. 

http://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/how-queen-bees-control-the-princesses

6 Things You Didn't Know About Queen Bees

meinhoney   By Hillary http://beekeepinglikeagirl.com/   January 4, 2016

As the sole bee in her caste, the queen bee is an illustrious member of the beehive. She is not only unique among her colony’s population, she is vital to maintaining that population. A queen can lay up to 1,500 eggs a day! Although egg laying is her main gig, the queen has many other qualities that may surprise you. Read on to find out more about this all-important bee.


Read more: http://meinhoney.com/news/6-things-you-didnt-know-about-queen-bees/

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How And Why Honey Bees Make The Ultimate Sacrifice When They Sting You

Forbes/Tech   From Quora    November 16, 2015 

(Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)

Why do honey bees die after they use their sting? originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question.

Answer by Matan Shelomi, Entomologist, Organismic Biologist, and Physiologist, on Quora:

There are four different ways of answering a “why” question in science [See Tinbergen's four questions], and the other answers [in the original Quora thread] all hit on the different answers. So let’s combine everyone’s work:
Mechanistic answer: the honey bee worker’s stinger is barbed, and sticks in human skin. It doesn’t stick in all animals, though; a honey bee could sting a large insect, for example, and pull out her stinger safely. But for humans and other mammals with thick skin, the stinger gets stuck. When the bee tries to escape after stinging, she will inevitably break off her rear end and possibly disembowel herself and die.

Adaptive answer: the stinger is a hollow needle, but attached to it is a venom sack. When a bee stings, she injects venom through the needle. This venom is a nasty cocktail of poisons: chemicals to break down the cell membrane and cause pain, anti-inflammatories to stop blood flow that would otherwise clear out the toxins, histamines that give you the allergic reaction symptoms, and even pheromones that signal to any bees in the vicinity, “We are at war! Come, sister, and sting here too!” The sack is attached to the stinger, so when a bee dies after stinging, her venom sack is often left behind, still pumping poison into your skin. You are stung once, but get multiple doses, so it’s not a total tragedy for the bee.

Ontogenetic answer: did you notice I was only using female pronouns for the bees? That’s intentional, because only female bees can sting; the stinger is a modified ovipositor, or egg-laying tool. Worker bees seem to be born knowing what to do, and sting instinctively. I doubt they know their stinging will be fatal. All that matters is to get rid of whatever is attacking the colony, and stinging works. Since workers do not reproduce on their own, they are giving up their own lives so the queen and any new reproductives can survive to lay eggs in the future. Queen bees can sting too, but their stinger is not barbed and they can actually sting you multiple times without dying. They are not likely to sting the average person, since they rarely leave the hive and usually just sting rival queens coming to usurp the throne (ideally before they have finished their pupation…”Game of Thrones” has nothing on bee politics).

Phylogenetic answer: the gender is important for another reason: female bees are more closely related to their sisters than to their own children. That’s how such altruism evolved: a bee’s genes survive better in her sisters than her kids. This works because bees are “haplodiploid.” What that means is that females have two copies of every chromosome, but males only one. Males are produced by unfertilized eggs. You may have learned that humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 total), and one pair are the sex chromosomes: XX for women, XY for men. A female bee will have 16 pairs of chromosomes (32 total), but the male only one copy (16 total). The female sex chromosomes are XX, but the male is just X.

Here’s where it gets a bit mathematical: a queen’s eggs, like a human’s egg cell, will each contain 50% of her genome (one copy of each chromosome). The queen is thus 50% genetically related to her babies. However, because the male has only one set of chromosomes, his sperm cells will each be 100% of his genome, unlike humans where sperm cells also are 50% of the father’s genome. How related are you to your siblings? 50% of your DNA came from mom, and represents 50% of her DNA. The same for dad. The chance that your sibling got the same DNA from each parent as you did is (50%*50%)+(50%*50%)=0.25+0.25=50%. You are 50% related to your sibling. What about worker bees? 50% of her DNA came from the queen, which represents 50% of her DNA. 50% of her DNA came from the drone, but that represents 100% of his DNA, because he only has one set of chromosomes to give. (50%*50%)+(50%*100%)=0.25+0.5=75%. Worker bees are 75% genetically identical to their sisters, but would only be 50% identical to their children. Thus, it makes evolutionary sense for a worker to forgo reproduction, and even sacrifice her own life, if it helps her sisters. This is called Kin selection.

Read at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2015/11/16/how-and-why-honey-bees-make-the-ultimate-sacrifice-when-they-sting-you/

 

Neonics Severely Affecting Queen Bees

Bug Squad     By Kathy Keatley Garvey   October 15, 2015

Everyone from scientists to environmentalists to beekeepers are clamoring for more research on the effects of neonicotinoids on honey bees.

How do neonics affect queen bees?

Newly published research led by Geoffrey Williams of the Institute of Bee Health, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Switzerland, indicates that neonics severely affect queen bees.

They published the article, Neonicotinoid Pesticides Severely Affect Honey Bee Queens, on Oct. 13 in the "Scientific Reports" section of Nature. The abstract:

"Queen health is crucial to colony survival of social bees. Recently, queen failure has been proposed to be a major driver of managed honey bee colony losses, yet few data exist concerning effects of environmental stressors on queens. Here we demonstrate for the first time that exposure to field-realistic concentrations of neonicotinoid pesticides during development can severely affect queens of western honey bees (Apis mellifera). In pesticide-exposed queens, reproductive anatomy (ovaries) and physiology (spermathecal-stored sperm quality and quantity), rather than flight behaviour, were compromised and likely corresponded to reduced queen success (alive and producing worker offspring). This study highlights the detriments of neonicotinoids to queens of environmentally and economically important social bees, and further strengthens the need for stringent risk assessments to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services that are vulnerable to these substances."

Williams and his research team correctly noted that "a plethora of literature has demonstrated lethal and sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on social bees in the field and laboratory" but that much of that research was done on worker bees.

"In this study, we hypothesised that exposure to field-realistic concentrations of neonicotinoid pesticides would significantly reduce honey bee queen performance due to possible changes in behaviour, and reproductive anatomy and physiology," they wrote. "To test this, we exposed developing honey bee queens to environmentally-relevant concentrations of the common neonicotinoid pesticides thiamethoxam and clothianidin. Both pesticides are widely applied in global agro-ecosystems and are accessible to pollinators such as social bees, but are currently subjected to two years of restricted use in the European Union because of concerns over their safety. Upon eclosion, queens were allowed to sexually mature. Flight behaviour was observed daily for 14 days, whereas production of worker offspring was observed weekly for 4 weeks. Surviving queens were sacrificed to examine their reproductive systems."

They called for more research on the effects of the pesticides on queen bee reproduction:

"Current regulatory requirements for evaluating safety of pesticides to bees fail to directly address effects on reproduction. This is troubling given the key importance of queens to colony survival and their frailty in adjusting to environmental conditions. Our findings highlight the apparent vulnerability of queen anatomy and physiology to common neonicotinoid pesticides, and demonstrate the need for future studies to identify appropriate measures of queen stress response, including vitellogenin expression. They additionally highlight the general lack of knowledge concerning both lethal and sub-lethal effects of these substances on queen bees, and the importance of proper evaluation of pesticide safety to insect reproduction, particularly for environmentally and economically important social bee species." Read the full report.

Meanwhile, the University of California, Davis, just held a sold-out conference on neonics. The speakers' presentations (slide shows) are posted on the California Center for Urban Horticulture's website.

Everyone agrees on this: more research is needed.

Read at: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=19248

Webinar: OSU - Royal Jelly and Queen Development, A Chemical Perspective

Wednesday, August 19, webinar with Thomas Janini of The Ohio State University:
Royal Jelly and Queen Development: A Chemical Perspective
Thom will be discussing the composition of royal jelly and its effect on larval development.
All webinars are free, and registration is not required. Webinars run from 9:00AM to 10:00AM Eastern, 7:00AM Pacific.
To join the webinar, follow the link below and LOG IN AS A GUEST at about 6:55AM Pacific the day of the event: http://go.osu.edu/theOSUbuzz download the Adobe Connect app.

All webinars will be recorded and archived on the Bee Lab website.

How Bees Naturally Vaccinate Their Babies

Phys.org    July 31, 2015

When a bee is born, they are already "vaccinated" against some diseases found in their environment. This immune system priming is passed along to the larvae from the queen bee via a blood protein called vitellogenin. Credit: Christofer BangWhen it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don't have a choice—they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how they do it.

Researchers from Arizona State University, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä and Norwegian University of Life Sciences made the discovery after studying a bee blood protein called vitellogenin. The scientists found that this protein plays a critical, but previously unknown role in providing bee  protection against disease.

The findings appear today in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

"The process by which  transfer immunity to their babies was a big mystery until now. What we found is that it's as simple as eating," said Gro Amdam, a professor with ASU's School of Life Sciences and co-author of the paper. "Our amazing discovery was made possible because of 15 years of basic research on vitellogenin. This exemplifies how long-term investments in basic research pay off."

Co-author Dalial Freitak, a postdoctoral researcher with University of Helsinki adds: "I have been working on bee immune priming since the start of my doctoral studies. Now almost 10 years later, I feel like I've solved an important part of the puzzle. It's a wonderful and very rewarding feeling!"

HOW IT WORKS

In a honey bee colony, the queen...

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-07-bees-naturally-vaccinate-babies.html#jCp

You Asked: Are the Honey Bees Still Disappearing?

TIME.com By Markham Heid  April 15, 2015

Beekeepers continue to grapple with historically high death rates. And now something’s up with the queens.

Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

From almonds to cherries, dozens of food crops are partially or totally dependent on honeybee pollination. And while media attention has waned, there’s still reason to worry about the country’s smallest and most indispensable farm workers.

Bee researchers first reported massive die-offs back in the 1990s. But the plight of the honeybee didn’t truly buzz into the national consciousness until the spring of 2013, when data revealed the average beekeeper had lost 45% of her colonies the previous winter. A mysterious phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD) further stoked the fires of public interest.

Jump to 2015. While last winter’s bee death data won’t be published for a few more weeks, things appear to be “status quo,” says Dr. Greg Hunt, a honeybee expert at Purdue University. Unfortunately, the status quo is grim. “We’ve been seeing about 30% loss in an average winter,” Hunt says. “The winter before last was particularly bad and got a lot of attention, but things have been bad for a while.”

Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp—a University of Maryland entomologist who helps collect and publish the winter death data each spring—says there are three “primary drivers” of honeybee loss: The varroa mite, pesticides and poor nutrition. He doesn’t hesitate when asked to name the largest threat to bees: “I’d get rid of the varroa first.”

Varroa mites, properly (and frighteningly) named Varroa destructor, likely migrated to the U.S. sometime in the 1980s. They attach to a honeybee’s body and suck its blood, which kills many bees and spreads disease to others. The varroa can jump from one colony to another, wiping out whole populations of honeybees, vanEngelsdorp explains. There are treatments that combat the varroa. But many small-scale beekeepers don’t use them. “That’s bad, because they can spread mites to neighboring colonies,” he adds.

Of the two other major bee-killers vanEngelsdorp listed, pesticides have arguably gotten the most press—especially a commonly used category called neonicotinoids. While considered safe for humans, research suggests neonicotinoids may be extremely harmful to bees and many other insects, and so have been banned in some European countries. But the amount these chemicals contribute to bee deaths and colony collapse disorder is still debated. “We don’t find levels of neonicotinoids that are indicative of widespread exposure or harm,” vanEngelsdorp says.

The third problem—poor nutrition—is likely the most confounding of the honeybee’s enemies.

“Bees need a varied diet of different pollens in order to grow into strong, healthy workers,” explains Dr. Heather Mattila, a honeybee biologist at Wellesley College. Unfortunately, a country once filled with meadows of diverse, pollen-packed wildflowers is now blanketed by crops, manicured lawns, and mown fields barren of pollen sources. “A green space can be a green desert if it doesn’t have flowering plants that are bee-friendly,” Mattila adds.

Combine a restricted diet with environmental factors like extremely cold winters and scorching summers, and stressed honeybee colonies are less able to resist the ravages of mites, pesticides, viruses and other potential causes of colony collapse disorder.

To fill nutrition gaps, beekeepers give their wares pollen supplements. Along with tactics like colony splitting, keepers can restore their bee supplies quickly during the spring and summer months. But Hunt says the cost to do this is large—and growing larger. “As long as beekeepers are willing to put more money and hard labor into it, we can come back and rebuild our colonies and numbers,” he explains. “But whether this is all sustainable is an open question.”

Mattila calls this a “Band-Aid,” not a cure. “I think we’re making the best of a tough situation,” she says. Both she and Hunt applaud companies and localities that have started letting wildflowers grow along the sides of highways or under rural power lines—places that used to be mown and sprayed with herbicide. The federal government has also taken steps to protect lands that offer honeybees (and lots of other insects) the sustenance they need. Mattila says every American can help these efforts by planting flowers and avoiding chemical treatments.

But she mentions another emerging concern when it comes to the future of America’s honeybees: The strange, abrupt deaths of many bee queens. “When I started working with bees 18 years ago, we’d replace living queens every two years,” she recalls. “Now queens die after half a summer. Nobody is really clear on why.”

The “Band-Aid” she mentioned might already be coming off.


 Read at: http://time.com/3821467/bees-honeybees-environment/

How Science Can Help Beekeepers Protect Their Colonies

North Carolina State University   By Matt Shipman   March 16, 2015

Honey bees are important for more than just sweetening your cup of tea. They are essential to a wide range of crops and are responsible for more than $15 billion in crop value every year. And technology is helping researchers improve the health of bee colonies to protect these pollinators.

NC State University is home to a program called the Queen & Disease Clinic, which allows beekeepers from anywhere in the U.S. to send in queens or worker bees for analysis. Researchers at NC State can then analyze the bees using sophisticated molecular techniques to assess the reproductive capacity of queen bees or to identify any diseases or genetic anomalies in queens or worker bees.

“The goal of the clinic is to help beekeepers make informed decisions to protect colony health and improve the reproductive capacity of the colony,” says David Tarpy, a professor of entomology at NC State who oversees the clinic.

The clinic, which charges beekeepers a fee for the testing, stems from a large project called the Bee Informed Partnership, which is funded by a USDA grant and involves 17 universities in five states. That project is a collaboration with dozens of beekeepers to sample bee colonies in order to learn more about viruses such as Black Queen Cell Virus. Researchers know these viruses exist, but the project is designed to help them understand how widespread the viruses are and how those viruses affect the health of bee colonies.

“The grant that launched that large-scale project expires at the end of the year, and we wanted to both make the testing sustainable for the long-term and collect additional information about the prevalence and impact of these viruses,” Tarpy says. “We created the Queen & Disease Clinic to address both of those goals.

“It fits neatly into our overarching approach of giving both professional and amateur beekeepers the information and tools they need to be better and more successful beekeepers.”

That approach has also spawned the Beekeeper Education & Engagement System (called BEES – naturally), which consists of 11 introductory and advanced online courses for beekeepers.

“We love bees,” Tarpy says. “But they’re also an important part of the agricultural economy. We want to do whatever we can to help protect and cultivate this important natural resource.”

Read at:  https://news.ncsu.edu/2015/03/science-bee-health/

UNCC Professor Studies How Bee Colonies Select Mates for Queens

Newsobserver. com    By Lisa Thornton    February 22, 2015 

UNC Charlotte Professor Stan Schneider bred both high-quality (large-size) and low quality (small-size) drones, and then introduced them into his colonies for observation. (Courtesy Stan Schneider)

A peek into the bedrooms of queen honeybees might one day lead to lower grocery bills.

In learning ways to keep nature's best pollinators in abundance, scientists have begun studying more intimately the nature of bees' relationships with one another, including how they choose their mates. What they discover might help keep the insects' counts from dropping drastically, a problem that would lead to lower quality and quantities of the foods they pollinate - and also to higher prices.

"We won't starve if honeybees disappear because we'll have wind-pollinated grains, but the variety of our diet and the healthiness of our diet would be negatively impacted, and food would become much more expensive," said UNC Charlotte professor Stan Schneider, an animal behaviorist who specializes in honeybee communication.

The honeycomb suite

Schneider's laboratory, a series of glass-encased hives containing more than 12,000 honeybees, has become the buzz for research on how bees choose who will create their future generations.

It's not as simple as two star-crossed honeybees locking glances across a crowded honeycomb. It's more of a...

 

Watching the Girls Go By

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    3/29/14

Pull up a chair and engage in a little "girl-watching."

That is, honey bees heading home to their colony.

Many beekeepers, especially beginning beekeepers, like to watch their worker bees--they call them "my girls"--come home. They're loaded with pollen this time of year. Depending on the floral source, it may be yellow, red, white, blue, red or colors in between.

Below, the girls are heading home to a bee observation hive located inside the conference room of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis. 

 

They're bringing in food for the colony: pollen and nectar. They also collect water and propolis (plant resin). This is a matriarchal society where females do all the work in the hive. The worker bees--aptly named--serve as nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue specialists," air conditioning and/or heating technicians, guards and undertakers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The glassed-in bee observation hive is indeed a popular and educational attraction to watch the queen lay eggs (she'll lay about 2000 eggs a day during peak season), the comb construction, honey production, pollen storage and all the other activities. The sisters feed the colony, including the queen and their brothers (drones). A drone's responsibility is solely reproduction, and that takes place in mid-air when a virgin queen takes her maiden flight. After mating, he dies. Done. That's it.

Meanwhile, life continues inside the hive.

Read...

Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/

Single Gene Separates Queen From Workers

Michigan State University    Contacts: Layne Cameron, Zachary Huang   1/29/14

Scientists have identified how a single gene in honey bees separates the queens from the workers.

A team of scientists from Michigan State University and Wayne State University unraveled the gene’s inner workings and published the results in the current issue of Biology Letters. The gene, which is responsible for leg and wing development, plays a crucial role in the evolution of bees’ ability to carry pollen.

“This gene is critical in making the hind legs of workers distinct so they have the physical features necessary to carry pollen,” said Zachary Huang, MSU entomologist. “Other studies have shed some light on this gene’s role in this realm, but our team examined in great detail how the modifications take place.”

The gene in question is Ultrabithorax, or Ubx. Specifically, the gene allows workers to develop a smooth spot on their hind legs that hosts their pollen baskets. On another part of their legs, the gene promotes the formation of 11 neatly spaced bristles, a section known as the “pollen comb.”

The gene also promotes the development of a pollen press, a protrusion also found on hind legs, that helps pack and transport pollen back to the hive.

While workers have these distinct features, queens do not. The research team was able to confirm this by isolating and silencing Ubx, the target gene. This made the pollen baskets, specialized leg features used to collect and transport pollen, completely disappear. It also inhibited the growth of pollen combs and reduced the size of pollen presses.

In bumble bees, which are in the same family as honey bees, queens have pollen baskets similar to workers. In this species, Ubx played a similar role in modifying hind legs because the gene is more highly expressed in hind legs compared to front and mid legs.

Besides honey bees, which aren’t native to North America, there are more than 300 species of other bees in Michigan alone. These include solitary leaf cutter bees, communal sweat bees and social bumble bees.

“The pollen baskets are much less elaborate or completely absent in bees that are less socially complex,” Huang said. “We conclude that the evolution of pollen baskets is a major innovation among social insects and is tied directly to more-complex social behaviors.”

Future research by Huang may pursue investigating how bees could be improved to become better pollinators. While this won’t provide a solution to bee colony collapse disorder, it could provide an option for improving the shrinking population of bees’ pollen-collecting capacity.

Huang’s research is supported in part by MSU AgBioResearch.

See more at: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/single-gene-separates-queen-from-workers/#sthash.ASB4RXEQ.dpuf

 Source: Michigan State University

Queen Bee Tells The Whole Hive About Their Sexual Flings

Los Angeles Times    By Geoffrey Mohan    11/14/13


Queen honeybees not only mate with lots of males, but they also brag about it to the whole hive.

A chemical signal from queen bee glands lets the female worker bees know that her mating dalliances were successful, and hint at just how fruitful they were, according to a study published Wednesday in the online journal PLOS One.

The honeybee, Apis mellifera, is equipped with one of the most complex chemical signaling systems in nature, with multiple pheromones controlling the social organization of the hive. They can encourage foraging, attract mates, keep new queens from being reared, and even change the population composition of the hive and alter the gene expression of worker bees.

But entomologists have wondered what kind of information those chemicals conveyed...

Read more...

Related article Penn State

Bee My Valentine

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  2/14/13 

It's nice to remember the honey bee on Valentine's Day. You'll see many Valentine cards  inscribed with "Bee My Valentine" and featuring a photo of a bee.

Many of those photos depict a queen bee, the mother of all bees in the hive.

To be a queen, she'll need to be fed royal jelly as a larva. The nurses bees feed the otther larvae a regular worker diet that includes pollen. 

"Queen larvae are fed royal jelly throughout larval development, providing a...

Read more...


Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/
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