(National Geographic) While checking his hives this June, a master beekeeper discovered something highly unusual. Whereas all the other honeybees in the hive had normal black eyes, one insect sported a pair of creamy yellow peepers that were impossible to miss. And that wasn’t all. When the beekeeper looked closer, he realized that not only were the bee’s eyes off-color, but they were abnormally large. In fact, they looked like the radar-dish eyes typical of male honeybees, or drones, despite the fact that the rest of the bee—the abdomen, stinger, and wings—were clearly female.
What causes African hybrid honey bees (AHB), also known as killer bees, to be highly defensive and aggressive? York University researchers have found it was the mixing of African and European genetics that led to hyper-aggression in this invasive strain of honey bees.
(University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) Researchers often study the genomes of individual organisms to try to tease out the relationship between genes and behavior. A new study of Africanized honey bees reveals, however, that the genetic inheritance of individual bees has little influence on their propensity for aggression. Instead, the genomic traits of the hive as a whole are strongly associated with how fiercely its soldiers attack.
(Phys.org/Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) A team working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute found evidence to support a long-debated mode of evolution, revealing how evolution captures environmental variation to teach old genes new tricks: Sweat bees switch from solitary to social behavior, repurposing ancient sets of genes that originally evolved to regulate the development of other traits.
(The Applied Ecologist) In their recently published article, Ignasi Bartomeus and colleagues show how the commercial bumble bee trade is affecting the genetic integrity of native pollinators. They show evidence that hybridization between commercial and native lines is common in southern Spain. What are its implications? What should we do to fix it? They’ve also crafted a wonderful video (with the help of Bartomeus’ kids) to explain it all.
(University of Zurich) Producing fewer sperm cells can be advantageous in self-fertilizing plants. An international study led by the University of Zurich has identified a gene in the model plant Arabidopsis that reduces the number of pollen. In addition to supporting the evolutionary theory, these findings could help to optimize plant breeding and domestication in agriculture.
(University of Sydney) Reversions to asexual reproduction are rare in nature. Asexual birth in the Cape honey bee may be the first time that the genetic basis of such a phenomenon has been discovered.
(Scientific American) “It is said that there are at least two distinct races of stingless bees in South America, but these races have not much value as honey gatherers, and moreover they build combs with very thick-walled cells, and probably they would not be worth cultivating as compared with the European, Asiatic and African races. But if we can cross our bees with the giant bees of India and obtain a race with a long proboscis and perhaps increased size (if that should prove to be of any advantage), and cross this improved race with the South American stingless bees, we shall then have a race of bees which it will be difficult to improve.”