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Bee Balm

Scientists discover genes that could be used to improve bee health.

A core set of genes involved in the responses of honey bees to multiple diseases caused by viruses and parasites has been identified by researchers in the college. The findings may help scientists and beekeepers breed honey bees that are more resilient to stress.

According to the researchers, while many studies have used genomic approaches to understand how bees respond to viruses and parasites, it has been difficult to compare across these studies to find the core genes and pathways that help the bee fight off stressors.

"Our team created a new bioinformatics tool that has enabled us to integrate information from 19 different genomic datasets to identify the key genes involved in honey bees' response to diseases," says Christina Grozinger, Distinguished Professor of Entomology.

The implications of the findings are not limited to honey bees. The team found that the core genes are part of conserved pathways--meaning they have been maintained throughout the course of evolution among insects and therefore are shared by other insects. This means that the genes provide important knowledge for understanding pathogen interactions with other insects, such as bumble bees, and for using pathogens to control insect pests, such as aphids and certain moths.

--Sara LaJeunesse