Secrets of the honey bee revealed in genome code
Wed Oct 25, 2006 1:07 PM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have unraveled the genetic code of the honey bee, uncovering clues about its complex social behavior, heightened sense of smell and African origins.
It is the third insect to have its genome mapped and joins the fruit fly and mosquito in the exclusive club.
The honey bee, or Apis mellifera, evolved more slowly than the other insects but has more genes related to smell.
"In biology and biomedicine, honey bees are used to study many diverse areas, including allergic disease, development, gerontology, neuroscience, social behavior and venom toxicology," said Gene Robinson, director of the University of Illinois Bee Research Facility and one of the leaders of the project.
"The honey bee genome project is ushering in a bright era of bee research for the benefit of agriculture, biological research and human health," he added.
With its highly evolved social structure of tens of thousands of worker bees commanded by Queen Elizabeth, the honey bee genome could also improve the search for genes linked to social behavior.
But the consortium of scientists, who reported the findings in the journal Nature, said a comprehensive analysis of the honey bee and other species will be needed to understand its social life.
Queen Elizabeth has 10 times the lifespan of workers and lays up to 2,000 eggs a day. Despite having tiny brains, honey bees display honed cognitive abilities and learn to associate a flower's color, shape and scent with food, which increases its foraging ability.(Okay, the illustration was mine. The story, however, belongs to Reuters.)