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  • tomas mozer
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2002
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      The incomplete historical record documenting the origins of Apis mellifera
      in the Americas is open to interpretation. Crane,E.(1999) cites: "We do not
      know when honey bees first reached New Spain (Mexico)... As early as 1513,
      Herrera's Obra de Agricultura mentioned the difficulty of transporting bees
      to the newly discovered Indies... Brand (1970,pblshd.1988) concluded...that
      the Spanish probably introduced honey bees in the 1520's or 1530's...
      Perkins (1926) quoted verbatim from a report written in the 1600's: 'a swarm
      must have settled on a ship about to sail from Spain...and on reaching what
      is now Veracruz the bees flew ashore and...in[to] a cask which a priest
      provided as a hive'." [The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting;
      Routledge, N.Y.: (p.361...)]

      Nelson,E.V.(1967) in "History of Beekeeping in the United States" comments:
      "The actual date of importation of the first colonies of honey bees...to
      North America is unknown... In 1763, the English introduced colonies of bees
      into Florida, although they may have been brought earlier to St. Augustine
      by the Spanish." [Beekeeping in the United States; USDA/ARS Agriculture
      Handbook no.335:( p.2...)]

      Oertel,E.(1976) writes in "Bicentennial bees: early records of honey bees in
      the eastern United States" that "Bartram (1792)...noted...bee tree[s] on the
      banks of the [lower] St.John's river in 1765 and...considerable honey
      [harvests]... In 1765 De Brahm...began an official land survey in East
      Florida...[and reported]...bees were frequently seen... Barton (1802) stated
      that the honey bees in Florida, after having been introduced by the
      Spaniards, had by 1785 increased into innumerable swarms...We can
      speculate...about...the feasible routes for swarms to take, whether natural
      swarms or box hives transported by man...[including] along the Gulf coast."
      [American Bee Journal 116:70...]

      Attempts to elucidate the nature of "New World" feral honey bees need to
      incorporate observations by Daly,H.V.et al.(1991): "Feral honey bees in
      California are mongrel populations, partially differentiated in
      morphometrics from managed colonies as well as from European
      subspecies...The geographic variation is presumably adaptive...[and] points
      to an underlying genetic differentiation among feral populations in
      California." ["Clinal geographic variation in feral honey bees in
      California, USA"; Apidologie 22:591-609. (abstract):
      A preliminary analysis by Mozer,T.(2002) of Florida "ferals" found in the
      vicinity of ports-of-entry points to similarities in reports of the survival
      of feral bees with "non-commercial" lineage, suggesting naturalized "New
      World" ecotypes that are conceivably descendants of the earliest
      ["Observations on feral honey bees in Florida, USA";

      The complexities of understanding honey bee ancestry are illustrated in a
      study by Schiff,N.M. & Sheppard,W.S. (1993) on genetic variation of feral
      populations in the southern U.S. in which "422 feral bee colonies [were]
      sampled...from nine states (Florida was not included)...[and] results are as
      follows: [~22% were of] European honey bee races considered 'western' races
      (A. mellifera mellifera/A. mellifera iberica)...[~77% were of] 'eastern'
      races (A. mellifera carnica/A. mellifera ligustica)...thought to make up the
      majority of the present U.S. commercial honey bee stock...[~1%] African
      mtDNA was from the Egyptian honey bee (A. mellifera lamarckii), not A.
      mellifera scutellata [from sub-Saharan Africa]." ["Mitochondrial DNA
      evidence for the 19th century introduction of African honey bees into the
      United States"; Experientia 49:350-352. (cited in APIS newsletter):

      In a later publication, Schiff & Sheppard(1995) report that "commercial
      bees...[are] significantly different than the feral population of the
      southern United States, where 36.7% of 692 feral colonies had the A.m.
      mellifera/iberica haplotype (Schiff et al.1994). The lack of A.m.
      mellifera[/iberica] haplotypes in the commercial population is indicative of
      restricted gene flow between feral and commercial populations. Until A.m.
      ligustica was introduced by bee breeders in 1859, A.m. mellifera[/iberica]
      was the only subspecies present in the United States. Gene flow between
      commercial and feral populations likely has occured through swarming and
      open matings since that time. However, the maternally inherited mtDNA of
      A.m. mellifera[/iberica] has made little intrusion into commercial
      populations, demonstrated by the low frequency of A.m. mellifera[/iberica]
      mtDNA haplotypes in this group (3%). Perhaps, through selection or other
      breeding practices, bee breeders have contributed to this asymmetry in mtDNA
      haplotype frequencies. A [third] haplotype, A.m. lamarckii, which was
      present in 2% of feral colonies (Schiff et al.1994) was not found in the
      sampled breeder queen population." ["Genetic Analysis of Commercial Honey
      Bees from the Southeastern United States". J. Econ. Entomol.
      88(5):1216-1220. http://www.beesource.com/pov/ahb/jee1995.htm%5d

      Coincidentally, Hall,H.G. & McMichael,A.M. (2001) found that "Frequencies of
      Restriction Fragment-Length Polymorphisms Indicate That Neotropical Honey
      Bee Populations Have African and West European Origins: In this study,
      ancestry in New World bees was inferred from allele identities and
      frequencies at a highly polymorphic nuclear locus in Old and New World honey
      bee populations...in combination with mitochondrial DNA types. In bees from
      the United States, collected before the invasion of African bees, east and
      west European alleles were found at frequencies of 83 and 17%, respectively,
      which is consistent with previously identified nuclear and mitochondrial DNA
      markers. Colonies from two neotropical countries, Mexico and Honduras, had
      African mitochondrial DNA and high frequencies of African nuclear DNA
      alleles. Consistent with previous findings, east European alleles were
      absent or detected at low frequencies in these colonies. However, west
      European alleles were found at frequencies from 26 to 31%. These results
      suggest that queen offspring of the African queens first introduced into
      Brazil mated with west European drones, incorporating neutral markers that
      have since remained in the expanding population of feral African bees. The
      results point to little paternal introgression from managed east European
      colonies encountered by the African bees spreading through the neotropics."
      [Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 94(5): 670-676.

      It is interesting to note an apparent parallel in an "Old World" setting, as
      communicated by Franck,P.et al.(1998): "Apis mellifera is composed of [at
      least] three evolutionary branches including mainly African (branch A), West
      and North European (branch M) and South-East European (branch C)
      populations. The existence of morphological clines extending from the
      equator to the polar circle through Morocco and Spain raised the hypothesis
      that the branch M originated in Africa. Mitochondrial DNA analysis revealed
      that branches A and M were characterized by highly diverged lineages
      implying very remote links between both branches. It also revealed that
      mtDNA haplotypes from lineages A coexisted with haplotypes M in the Iberian
      peninsula and formed a South-North frequency cline, suggesting that this
      area could be a secondary contact zone between the two branches... [The]
      higher haplotype A variability observed in Spanish and Portuguese samples
      compared to that found in Africa is explained by a higher mutation rate and
      multiple and recent introductions. Selection appears as the best explanation
      to the morphological and allozymic clines and to the diffusion and
      maintenance of African haplotypes in Spain and Portugal." ["The origin of
      West European subspecies of honeybees: new insights from mitochondrial DNA
      and microsatellite data"; Evolution 52(4):1119-1134. (abstract):

      Whether the remnant populations in Florida will continue to survive in the
      face of numerous stresses remains unresolved in light of similar scenarios,
      including the fate of feral honey bees in Arizona and Texas as observed by
      Baum,K.A.et al.(199?): "Few studies have documented population trends for
      feral colonies, but Loper (1997) reported an 82 percent decline in spring
      populations from 1992 to 1997 [in Arizona]...The observed population trends
      [in Texas] correspond to the arrival of Varroa mites and Africanized honey
      bees. Varroa mites were first recorded on the Welder Refuge in 1995. By
      1996, the feral populations had declined dramatically. Africanization began
      to increase in 1995, with all the colonies Africanized by 1998...These data
      suggest populations of European feral honey bees were decimated by Varroa
      mites in 1995, and then replaced by Africanized honey bees in the following
      years." ["Effects of Landscape Pattern on the Distribution of Feral Honey
      Bee Colonies in South Texas"; http://kelab.tamu.edu/standard/honeybees/%5d.
      However, recent findings (pers. communication, W.L.Rubink) of ~25% European
      mtDNA persisting in the Texas feral population are encouraging.

      Likewise, reports of mite tolerant populations from Arizona give one reason
      for optimism, as anecdotal evidence shows our study population in northeast
      Florida approaches infestation levels over 5 years without treatments (pers.
      observations, T.Mozer), comparable to those of Erickson,E.et al.(1999): "A
      long term study was undertaken to determine whether a varroa-tolerant honey
      bee population could be developed and maintained via selective breeding and
      conventional beekeeping practices, and without the use of other mite control
      strategies. The results of this study conducted at an isolated site
      demonstrate that it is relatively easy to find varroa-tolerant colonies, and
      to produce and maintain varroa-tolerant strains of honey bees. This Varroa
      tolerant population has survived for nearly five years with mean annual
      infestation level between 6 and 7 percent." ["Varroa-Tolerant Honey Bees Are
      A Reality", (abstract):

      Research is currently underway at the University of Florida beelab
      [http://www.ifas.ufl.edu/~hgh/deptpage/hgh_biog.htm%5d on quantitative trait
      loci (QTL) involved in suppression of Varroa mite reproduction (SMR): "SMR
      is latent in bee populations and can be greatly enhanced through selective
      breeding. The goal of this project is to find DNA markers associated with
      SMR, thereby locating the genes responsible (QTL) along genetic maps.
      Markers associated with the trait would facilitate selecting from different
      sources of bees and combining SMR with other desirable traits. This project
      will use bees from Louisiana already selected for SMR and will select for
      SMR from Florida bees that have survived the mite without treatment."
      [Abstract 2001-02839;

      Disclaimer: the views expressed do not represent the State and/orUniversity
      of Florida's official positions. Copyright � 2002 by Tomas Mozer, all rights
      Copyleft: Verbatim copying of this document is permitted, in any medium,
      under Design Science License terms and conditions (see

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