New multi-locus metabarcoding approach for pollen analysis uncovers what plants bee species rely on
To uncover what plants honey bees rely on, researchers from The Ohio State University are using the latest DNA sequencing technology and a supercomputer. They spent months collecting pollen from beehives and have developed a multi-locus metabarcoding approach to identify which plants, and what proportions of each, are present in pollen samples.
A single beehive can collect pollen from dozens of different plant species, and this pollen is useful evidence of the hive’s foraging behavior and nutrition preferences.
“Knowing the degree to which certain plants are being foraged upon allows us to infer things like the potential for pesticide exposure in a given landscape, the preference of certain plant species over others, and the degree to which certain plant species contribute to the honey bee diet,” says graduate student Rodney Richardson. “One of the major interests of our lab is researching honey bee foraging preferences so we can enhance landscapes to sustain robust honey bee populations.”
For Richardson and his colleagues, metabarcoding is key to this research. It is a DNA analysis method that enables researchers to identify biological specimens.
Metabarcoding works by comparing short genetic sequence “markers” from unidentified biological specimens to libraries of known reference sequences. It can be used to detect biological contaminants in food and water, characterize animal diets from dung samples, and even test air samples for bacteria and fungal spores. In the case of pollen, it could save researchers countless hours of identifying and counting individual pollen grains under a microscope.
Richardson and his colleagues devised the new metabarcoding method using three specific locations in the genome, or loci, as markers. They found that using multiple loci simultaneously produced the best metabarcoding results for pollen. The entire procedure, including DNA extraction, sequencing, and marker analysis, is described in the November issue of Applications in Plant Sciences.
To develop the new method, the researchers needed a machine powerful enough to process millions of DNA sequences. For this work, the team turned to the Ohio Supercomputer Center.
“As a researcher, you feel like a kid in a candy store,” Richardson says. “You can analyze huge datasets in an instant and experiment with the fast-evolving world of open source bioinformatics software as well as the vast amount of publicly available data from previous studies.”
In previous metabarcoding experiments, the researchers worked solely with a marker found in the nuclear genome called ITS2. ITS2 successfully identified plant species present in pollen samples, but it could not produce quantitative measurements of the proportions of each.
While searching for something better, they decided to test two markers from the plastid genome. Pollen was previously thought to rarely contain plastids, but recent studies showed promise for plastid-based barcoding of pollen. Richardson and his colleagues found that the combined data from the two plastid markers, rbcL and matK, successfully correlated with microscopic measurements of pollen abundance.
The new multi-locus metabarcoding method involves all three markers and could serve as a valuable tool for research on the native bee species that comprise local bee communities.
“With a tool like this, we could more easily assess what plants various bee species are relying on, helping to boost their populations as well as the economic and ecological services they provide to our agricultural and natural landscapes.” Richardson says, “While the honey bee is seen as our most economically important pollinator, it’s only one of several hundred bee species in Ohio, the vast majority of which are greatly understudied in terms of their foraging ecology.”
The Latest on: Honey bee populations
via Google News
The Latest on: Honey bee populations
- Plant a variety of blooms to help bees in lean timeson September 7, 2019 at 11:03 pm
The lack of four-season food sources is one of the leading causes of the decline of bee populations around the world ... where enzymes turn its sugars into a diluted honey. Early spring can be one of ...
- To help bees through lean times, plant a variety of bloomson September 7, 2019 at 12:13 pm
The lack of four-season food sources is one of the leading causes of the world’s declining bee populations. At certain times of year ... where enzymes turn its sugars into a diluted honey. Early ...
- Nonprofit Bees in the D hit the roof to reverse decline in populationon September 7, 2019 at 12:04 pm
With the declining bee population nationwide, “it is important now more than ever to educate about honey bees and their conservation.” Pesticides are the main reason for the weakening bee population, ...
- Ninth Circuit Asked to Save Bees by Swatting EPA Revival of Pesticideon September 6, 2019 at 3:44 pm
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Beekeepers asked the Ninth Circuit on Friday to block the federal government’s approval of the unrestricted use of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, claiming it will decimate bee ...
- Senator Schumer Stands Up for the Honey Beeson September 5, 2019 at 4:00 pm
Senator Chuck Schumer standing up for the bees today, at Kutick's Honey Farm in Chenango County, after a federal decision to cut back research on declining bee populations. The end of this USDA study ...
- WMU gardeners hoping 'bee pollinator hotel' will improve bee populationson September 4, 2019 at 6:04 am
Two Michigan gardeners are hoping their “bee pollinator hotel” will help improve honey bee populations. Sharon Mullins and Laura Moss built a pollinator house on the campus of Western Michigan ...
- Helping Honeybee Populationson September 3, 2019 at 5:03 pm
(WTAJ/CNN) — Two Michigan gardeners are hoping their ‘Bee Pollinator Hotel’ will help improve honey bee populations. Sharon Mullins and Laura Moss built this pollinator house on the campus of Western ...
- Pollinator Day in Falmouth highlights the importance of bees, batson September 3, 2019 at 2:58 pm
we are committed to supporting pollinator populations. We have a large bee motel in our Children’s Garden (and) there is a dedicated Pollinator Garden next to the bee yard, where the Cumberland County ...
- Gardeners build pollinator hoping to improve bee populationson September 3, 2019 at 12:29 pm
... Laura Moss built a "bee pollinator hotel" on Western Michigan University's campus hoping it will help to improve honey bee populations. Some are calling it a "bee hotel," or even an "air bee-n-bee ...
- Grow with KARE: How to help local bee populationson August 30, 2019 at 7:57 pm
They work as a team to support over 400 native Minnesotan bees, and also manage honey bees. While the Bee lab works to ... Anyone can help support bee populations by snapping photos of them and ...
via Bing News