Bumble Bee Genome Project

Image source: Alvesgaspar (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

About the Project

The BCM-HGSC sequenced the bumble bee (Bombus terrestris). The bumble bee is at an evolutionary distance to the honey bee well suited for comparative analysis (closer than the distance between rodents and humans and about the same as the distance between dogs and cats).

Bumble bees are a social insect, like honey bees, and have been used as a model species to study social behavior, population and community ecology, parasitism, immunology, life history, physiology, reproduction, sex determination and pollination ecology.

Bumble bees are important for pollination of greenhouse crops and are reared and sold commercially. They have an annual lifecycle with a facultative diapause and are useful as models for studies of aging. Bumble bee queens and workers have the same genome but different lifespans, similar but not as pronounced as the difference between queen and worker honey bees. Bumble bees share some pests and pathogens with honey bees, and have been used to describe several key elements of insect immunity, tolerance, and resistance to pathogens and parasites, including immune defense passed from queen to offspring and parasite-induced changes in behavior and life history.

Genetic maps indicate that the bumble bee has a lower recombination rate than the honey bee, which could shed light on the extreme recombination rates in the honey bee. The genome size is estimated to be 274 Mb, genetic linkage maps and QTLs for some traits have been identified.

Sequencing of the bumble bee is funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NHGRI).

The DNA for the sequencing prepared from multiple drones from a single queen, was provided by Paul Schmid-Hempel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich.

Genomic Resources

Additional Resources

Learn more about the bumble bee