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Honeybee genome sequenced
Sequencing the honeybee is seen as important as it is, according to the authors, “…a key model for social behaviour and essential to global ecology through pollination.” In agricultural terms honeybees are vital, “…pollinating 90 major commercial crops in North America alone.” [Check E (2006) Nature 443, 893]. However, pollinating species are in danger; the honeybee population has declined 30% over the past 20 years. Having the genome sequence should enable scientists to breed new strains of honeybee, for example, that are resistant to the varroa mite, a parasite that can destroy an entire bee colony.
From the human health and societal perspectives, the honeybee will serve as a model organism for the study of issues such as immunity, allergic reaction, antibiotic resistance, mental health, longevity, social instincts and behavioural traits [see NIH press release]. The honeybee’s social behaviour is especially intriguing, as it has parallels in everyday human activities. Honeybees are an ideal model organism in which to study social biology, say scientists [see Check]. Investigators will be interested in finding out whether the mechanisms that control bee behaviour can tell us more about human behaviour.