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Queen Bee Sperm Storage Holds Clues to Colony Collapse

A honeybee queen mates solely throughout one transient interval of her life, storing sperm in a sac inside her physique for later use. But when she fails to maintain that sperm viable, her colony might collapse. This “queen failure” is a essential issue within the U.S. drop-off in bee numbers. Figuring out causes for queen failure has proved troublesome; queens present no clear signs when it occurs. However a brand new examine gives a solution to zero in on causes, which may result in a invaluable diagnostic device for beekeepers.

The queen is the one feminine in her colony who can reproduce. With out viable sperm she can not lay eggs, and the colony’s inhabitants plummets, says Alison McAfee, first creator of the examine and a bee researcher at North Carolina State College. It is a vital concern for people; as pollinators of crops corresponding to blueberries and apples, “honeybees are chargeable for round between $16 billion and $20 billion price of financial contribution to agriculture,” says McAfee, who additionally works for the College of British Columbia. Local weather change additional threatens honeybees’ survival, with earlier analysis displaying that top temperatures are additionally related to colony loss.

To look at queen failure, McAfee and her colleagues carried out a “molecular post-mortem” through which they analyzed the fluid inside sperm-storing sacs after exposing queens to excessive warmth, excessive chilly or pesticides. They discovered that every stressor was related to elevated ranges of various proteins within the fluid.

The researchers recognized the 2 most elevated proteins as indicators for every stressor. After they seemed for these in failed queens donated by British Columbia beekeepers, they discovered proteins indicating publicity to pesticides and excessive warmth however not excessive chilly. The outcomes have been revealed in BMC Genomics.

McAfee and her colleagues are utilizing these outcomes to develop a diagnostic take a look at that distinguishes between totally different causes of queen failure. This device is in its early levels, however Susan Cobey, a bee researcher at Washington State College, who was not concerned within the examine and runs a bee-insemination enterprise, is worked up by its potential: “Should you can decide what is going on on with [the queens] and take some preventive management … and keep away from losses within the discipline, that may be superior.”

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