Lack of Genetic Diversity

Honey bee populations of the USA display restrictions in their mtDNA haplotype diversity

Mohamed Alburaki1*, Shayne Madella1, Jillian Lopez1Maria Bouga2Yanping Chen1 and Dennis vanEngelsdorp3

  • 1USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, MD, United States
  • 2Agricultural University of Athens, Athens, Greece
  • 3Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, United States

The genetic diversity of the USA honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) populations was examined through a molecular approach using two mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) markers. A total of 1,063 samples were analyzed for the mtDNA intergenic region located between the cytochrome c oxidase I and II (COI-COII) and 401 samples were investigated for the NADH dehydrogenase 2 (ND2) coding gene. The samples represented 45 states, the District of Colombia and two territories of the USA. Nationwide, three maternal evolutionary lineages were identified: the North Mediterranean lineage C (93.79%), the West Mediterranean lineage M (3.2%) and the African lineage A (3.01%). A total of 27 haplotypes were identified, 13 of them (95.11%) were already reported and 14 others (4.87%) were found to be novel haplotypes exclusive to the USA. The number of haplotypes per state/territory ranged between two and eight and the haplotype diversity H ranged between 0.236–0.763, with a nationwide haplotype diversity of 0.597. Furthermore, the honey bee populations of the USA were shown to rely heavily (76.64%) on two single haplotypes (C1 = 38.76%, C2j = 37.62%) of the same lineage characterizing A. m. ligustica and A. m. carnica subspecies, respectively. Molecular-variance parsimony in COI-COII and ND2 confirmed this finding and underlined the central and ancestral position of C2d within the C lineage. Moreover, major haplotypes of A. m. mellifera (M3a, M7b, M7c) were recorded in six states (AL, AR, HI, MO, NM and WA). Four classic African haplotypes (A1e, A1v, A4, A4p) were also identified in nine states and Puerto Rico, with higher frequencies in southern states like LA, FL and TX. This data suggests the need to evaluate if a restricted mtDNA haplotype diversity in the US honey bee populations could have negative impacts on the beekeeping sustainability of this country.

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