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Removing queen bee from colony not harmful to hive

In a discovery that is very "reassuring for the commercial-production apiculture industry", scientists have found that the microbiome - colonies of bacteria, viruses and the like - of queen bees remains unaffected by their movement to different colonies.


Removing queen bee from colony not harmful to hive

New York: In a discovery that is very "reassuring for the commercial-production apiculture industry", scientists have found that the microbiome - colonies of bacteria, viruses and the like - of queen bees remains unaffected by their movement to different colonies.

Understanding the role of microbes in the productivity of queen bees and health of bee colonies may provide critical insights into the decline of bees in recent years, with colony losses as high as 40 percent over winter.

Apis mellifera - or the western honeybee - contributes significantly to agriculture, including pollinating one out of every three mouthfuls of food globally.

"We found that the microbiome in queen bees did not reflect those of worker bees - not even the progeny of the queen or her attendants," said Irene L.G. Newton, corresponding author on the study.

"In fact, queen bees lack many of the bacterial groups that are considered to be core to worker microbiomes," added Newton, assistant professor of biology at Indiana University Bloomington.

The study's results are the opposite of microbiome development in many mammals, including humans, in which infants' microbiomes are influenced by their mothers.

In a healthy colony, worker bees typically acquire their gut bacteria through interaction with microbes inside the hive, including faecal matter from adult bees.

But the most likely route of microbiome transmission in queen bees is the "royal jelly", protein-rich food source produced by worker bees and responsible for the development of queen bees during the larval stage.

The study's discovery suggests that modern beekeeping practices - in which queen bees are regularly removed from their home colonies and introduced into new hives - may not detrimentally affect the health of the colony.

"The research provides no evidence that beekeepers who regularly replace their queens from outside genetic sources harm their colonies by disrupting the gut microfauna of a particular colony.

"In many ways, these conclusions are very reassuring for the commercial-production apiculture industry," Newton concluded.

The research appeared online Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

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