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Overwintering behavior in bees  

Overwintering is a critical time period for bees, with both managed and wild bee species experiencing heavy losses. Understanding how bees respond to harsh environmental conditions can help us develop approaches to improve their survival, and more generally, will help us both understand the mechanisms mediating adaptation to changing environments and better model the effects of global climate change.  We have examined the transcriptional and physiological mechanisms mediating diapause (a genetically programmed period of reduced activity, metabolism, and reproduction triggered by harsh environmental conditions) in bumble bees, and provided support for the model that a conserved “diapause genetic toolkit” is used across species [1].  Currently, we are testing our hypothesis that changes in environmental nutritional resources result in changes in pheromone profiles inside the honey bee colony, which subsequently triggers the colony to prepare itself for winter in temperate regions and dry or wet seasons in tropical regions [2].

 

Current lab members: Mehmet (Mali) Doke, David Galbraith

Former lab members: Etya Amsalem

Collaborators (Penn State): Maryann Frazier

Collaborators: Jonathan Cnaani, Tugrul Giray

Funding: USDA-NIFA-AFRI, US-Israel Binational Science Foundation, NE SARE Graduate Student Award (Doke)

References:

 1. Amsalem E, Galbraith DA, Cnaani J, Teal PE, Grozinger CM: Conservation and modification of genetic and physiological toolkits underpinning diapause in bumble bee queens. Mol Ecol 2015, 24(22):5596-5615.

2. Doke MA, Frazier M, Grozinger CM: Overwintering Honey Bees: Biology and Management Current Opinion in Insect Science 2015, 10(185-193).