Submitted to: American Bee Journal
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: December 3, 2000
Publication Date: N/A
The honey bee queen-rearing industry plays a vital role in maintaining honey bees for pollination and hive products. Beekeepers must replace the queens in their colonies frequently, and suffer losses if the queens they purchase are not robust. We explore the genetic mechanisms behind the production of new queens by bee colonies. Our initial goal was to find genes that are switched on and off inside larvae, that drive them to become queens or workers. We used suppressive subtractive hybridization, a DNA cloning technique, to isolate candidate genes that are differently expressed in honey queen versus worker larvae. Several such candidates emerged, including some that are likely to be linked with bee nutrition and metabolism. These genes are interesting both with respect to queen production and because they might provide clues as to how to improve the nutritional health of all bees in the colony. We review other attemps and challenges involved with using genetic date to improve bee health and, ultimately, the vitality of the honey bee and bee pollination industries.