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Africanized bees

What fraction of honeybees encountered in San Diego County are Africanized? Student(s) in Recombinant DNA Techniques barcoded (sequenced a portion of the CO1 gene) 26 honeybee specimens from around the county collected by undergraduates taking Ecology Laboratory. Mitochondrial DNA from each specimen was also assayed for a restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) thought to be diagnostic between bees of African and European origin. A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the CO1 gene correlated perfectly with the RFLP indicating that barcode sequences may be diagnostic for continent of origin in honeybees. Approximately 2/3rds of the honeybee specimens were of apparent African origin.

One or more students are needed to expand this study for publication. We need to analyze further specimens for both RFLP and CO1 sequence to make sure that the SNP in CO1 is diagnostic. In addition, the student(s) will measure morphological features (chiefly wing size) that are used to diagnose whether specimens belong to European vs. African honeybee subspecies. It is expected that bees with African mitochondrial DNA markers will have shorter and narrower wings than bees with European mitochondrial DNA. Because these morphological features are unlikely to be entirely controlled by (maternally inherited) mitochondrial genes, demonstration of morphological differences will indicate probable introgression of nuclear genomes. This project can then be expanded in two directions: 1) Collecting bees from San Diego to Northern California to measure the current northern range limit of Africanized bees. 2) In conjunction with Dr. James Nieh, assaying Africanized bees for presence and prevalence of pathogens such as Nosema, a microsporidian parasite known to be one factor responsible for honeybee declines. It is possible that ecological dominance of the African subspecies is partly driven by increased resistance to parasites..