Genome Sequencing Enhances Conservation Prospects for Endangered Bee Species

Jun 20, 2023

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have released a comprehensive genome map of the rusty patched bumble bee, shedding light on strategies for its conservation. This achievement is part of the Beenome 100 project, a collaborative initiative between the ARS and the University of Illinois that aims to create a library of highly detailed genome maps for numerous bee species in the United States.

The genome mapping effort for the rusty patched bumble bee, an endangered species, offers valuable insights into the factors contributing to its population decline. Researchers hope to identify specific genetic differences that render certain bee populations more vulnerable to climate change and pesticide exposure.

The rusty patched bumble bee plays a crucial role as a pollinator for various plants, including wildflowers and crops such as apples and cranberries. Unfortunately, its population has witnessed a staggering 87 percent decline over the past two decades. Its habitat was once spread throughout 28 states and provinces but is now restricted to isolated areas in just 13 states and one Canadian province.

The detailed genome map of the rusty patched bumble bee provides researchers with a wealth of information to understand the species' genetic basis for adaptation and behavior. By identifying genes associated with resilient populations, conservationists can implement targeted strategies such as captive breeding programs to restore the species to specific areas.

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