bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Girls eat sterile men

The honeybee genome project is set to have reverberations throughout the beekeeping world. Here's an intriguing aspect considering a few reports last winter of some colonies dying off without an obvious cause.

Bees -- along with wasps, ants, ticks, mites -- have unfertilized eggs that develop into males. The discovery in 2003 of the complementary sex determination (CSD) gene helped explain the phenomenon. CSD has many versions, or alleles. Males inherit a single copy of the gene; females inherit two copies that are different. Bees that inherit two identical copies of CSD would develop into sterile males if they weren't eaten by bees as larvae to save resources.

And guess what can happen through inbreeding? It increases the likelihood of producing sterile males. And then colonies may die.

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