July 13, 2008

Genetic Diversity

Are these sisters or one of our girls foraging alongside a feral bee? Or maybe even a bee from another backyard hive? Even though they look totally different – one appears to be an Italian and the other a Carniolan (?) – they could very well be sisters. When our queen mated, she did so with several drones, guaranteeing genetic diversity within the hive. Colonies with a variety of bee strains outperform single-strain hives and are more suited for survival.

From an article in the USA Today:
One bee can travel up to 4 miles to pollinate, meaning a neighborhood beehive could help pollinate crops growing in nearby farms, Tarpy said. "Just by having a hive or two, you can be a tremendous asset," he said, adding that backyard bees hold the key to solving the Colony Collapse Disorder mystery. "More genetic diversity is very, very crucial," Tarpy said, "and because of that hobby, beekeepers are a genetic reservoir for diversity."

One of the problems with modern beekeeping is the tendency for beekeepers to buy queens that have been artificially inseminated with just one strain. A lot of beekeepers want just Italians because they're good honey producers, or just Carnis because they're so docile.

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