Sustaining Honey Bee Populations with DNA and Supercomputers

Recently scientists in America have been using DNA sequencing concurrently with the help of supercomputers in order to understand which species of plants honey bees collect their pollen from. According to them, studying and understanding the proportions of various plant types found in pollen samples collected from various beehives will help to determine the nutritional needs of honey bees, and eventually allow enhancements of landscapes where honey bees are known to venture so that their populations can be sustained: Metabarcoding works by comparing short genetic sequence "markers" from unidentified biological specimens to libraries of known reference sequences. It can be used to detect biological contaminants in food and water, characterize animal diets from dung samples, and even test air samples for bacteria and fungal spores. In the case of pollen, it could save researchers countless hours of identifying and counting individual pollen grains under a microscope.

 

Richardson and his colleagues devised the new metabarcoding method using three specific locations in the genome, or loci, as markers. They found that using multiple loci simultaneously produced the best metabarcoding results for pollen. The new multi-locus metabarcoding method involves all three markers and could serve as a valuable tool for research on the native bee species that comprise local bee communities.

 

"With a tool like this, we could more easily assess what plants various bee species are relying on, helping to boost their populations as well as the economic and ecological services they provide to our agricultural and natural landscapes."

Richardson says, "While the honey bee is seen as our most economically important pollinator, it's only one of several hundred bee species in Ohio, the vast majority of which are greatly understudied in terms of their foraging ecology."

 

This is just one of the many initiatives officially known publicly to boost honey bee populations. While this is just a small step towards protecting and sustaining honey bee populations, it will eventually prove itself as a posible catalyst towards improving the living environments of honey bees and ensuring that our future generations will continue to enjoy the fruits of labour of honey bees for many more good years to come!

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