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A lesson in genetics.

I want to get this down while my lizard brain can still grasp it.

Today was a rainy day, not a good day for getting out into bee yards, but a good day for microscope work. Morning spent dissecting honey bees, looking for tracheal mites, something that's become second nature and so it doesn't take long. I know where to look, know what to see or not see in each bee. Statistically I know that a set number of honey bees dissected can give me an overview of colony, the super organism's, tracheal mite infestation. Piece of cake.

Afternoon was also spent at the microscope, but looking for degrees of varroa infestation. A bit more work heavy, time lengthened. I have a comb of bee brood under the microscope and I open up a bunch of brood cells, looking for varroa mites and looking for signs of behavior on the part of the nurse bees indicating resistance to and control of varroa. But the pupae has to be of a certain age because the behavior triggered on the part of the nurse bee. Pupea can't be too young and can't be too old. I might have opened 1,500 brood cells in order to get the 500 needed and properly examined.

Right. Sitting across from me was a proper scientist, a bee biologist with international standing. Also a quick smart man who brooks no bullshit. These days the motion is to bring in geneticists, molecular biologists. Ideally, and in the lab, they find the alleles, the genetics, the chromosomal strings and QTLs (quantifiable trace locations on the chromosomes), then they turn back to the bee biologist and say, okay, A B G and Z colony you need to breed from because it shows the desired property (usually a resistance to disease or parasite). Hope I said that intelligibly.

See? The idea is that genetisists and molecular biologists will one day put the rest of us out of business with their QTL markers and such. Field biologists have to work in the reach of hit and miss, trial and error. I graft a queen I think might have the desirable trait and then I have to test her and her progeny. Again and again. Oh, and again and again.

I kind of ask the bee biologist about this all. Aren't the moleculars able yet to tell us in the field what we are looking for in the traits we desire and where we can find them? His answer is sweet and reminds me of what I already knew.

From memory, he says; there is no more genetically developed higher animal than the honey bee. Then I get it. A queen mates with up to 15 drones in her mating flight. In a situation like that how do you control the genetic stream? You don't. Interesting.

Mar/11/2014, 8:38 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson

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