Part 1: Understanding Drone Genetics

Study Description

Drone reproductive traits are essential for queen performance and colony success, yet we know very little about the role of genetics on these traits. The goal of this project is to identify genetic markers associated with drone reproductive traits. We will first screen important drone reproductive traits for 2 distinct genetic lineages and their offspring generation. Then, we will use genomic and transcriptomic sequencing techniques to associate genetic markers with measured drone phenotypic variation. Once we identify these genetic markers, we will develop a low-cost genetic screen for beekeepers to select breeder colonies for high-quality drones

BACKGROUND:

Pollinators improve the production of 87 of the leading global food products and provide over $215 billion worth of ecosystem services (1–4). Honey bees alone can increase yield for over 96% of pollinator-dependent crops. Though critical to food production, honey bee colonies—which are largely managed through commercial beekeeping operations—are expected to be reduced by over one third in number annually (5, 6). Despite these declines, the United States has increased both their demand and dependence on honey bees as pollinators (7). As a result, honey bee health is a matter of national concern.

The cause of honey bee declines is multifarious but among the largest threats is queen failure. Shockingly, as many as 50% of commercial queens fail within 6 months (8–10). The cause of failure and the production of poor queens is of deep importance to beekeepers and researchers alike (5, 6, 11). While much energy has focused on queens (12, 13), we are increasingly discovering that drones play a more important role in queen quality than originally expected. Indeed, queen reproductive potential has been linked to low sperm viability (14, 15) and poor drone quality (15, 16).

We have a detailed understanding of the traits necessary for drone reproduction: sperm morphology, seminal fluid composition (proteins and nucleic acids), and endophallus morphology to name only a few. However, we have little understanding of precisely how variation in these traits is generated. This is an important question because variation in reproductive phenotypes can lead to variation in drone reproductive success and ultimately, queen reproductive potential. Classically, phenotypic variation is generated through the effects of environmental and genetic variation (17). In the case of honey bee drone reproductive traits, we have substantial evidence of the role of environmental factors. For example, extreme temperatures (14, 18), miticides (19), insecticides (15), and poor nutrition (20) all deplete important reproductive traits.

We know comparatively little about the role genetics plays in shaping drone reproductive traits (16, 21, 22). This is a major gap in both our understanding of honey bee biology and in our ability to effectively manage colonies because there is substantial genetic variation in North American managed populations (23). This standing genetic variation may contribute to phenotypic variation in drone reproductive success observed among honey bee stocks in North America (16, 21, 22) and contribute to the success (or failure) of colonies (24).

 

Citations

1. Smith KM, et al. (2014) Ecohealth 10(4):434–445.2. Aizen MA, Garibaldi LA, Cunningham SA, Klein AM (2009) Ann Bot 103(9):1579–1588.3. Gallai N, Salles J-M, Settele J, Vaissière BE (2008) Ecol Econ 68(3):810–821.4. Klein A-M, et al. (2007) Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 274(1608):303–313.5. Kulhanek K, et al. (2017) J Apic Res 56(4):328–340.6. USDA-NASS (2017) 1–20.7. Brittain C, Williams N, Kremen C, Klein A (2013) Proc R Soc London B Biol Sci 280:20122767.8. vanEngelsdorp D, Tarpy DR, Lengerich EJ, Pettis JS (2013) Prev Vet Med 108(2–3):225–233.9. Sandrock C, et al. (2014) PLoS One 9(8):1–13.10. Pettis JS, Wilson W, Shimanuki H, Teel P (1991) Apidologie 22:1–7.11. Brodschneider R, et al. (2016) J Apic Res 55(5):375–378.12. Delaney D, et al. (2011) Apidologie 42(1): 1-13.13. Tarpy DR, Keller JJ, Caren JR, Delaney DA (2012). J Econ Entomol. doi:10.1603/EC11276.14. Pettis JS, Rice N, Joselow K (2016) 1–10.15. Kairo G, et al. (2016) Sci Rep 6. doi:10.1038/srep31904.16. Rousseau A, Fournier V, Giovenazzo P (2015) Can Entomol. doi:10.4039/tce.2015.12.17. Fischer E (1918) J für die reine und Angew Math 148:1–78.18. Bienkowska M, Panasiuk B, Wegrzynowicz P, Gerula D (2011) t J Apic Sci 55(2):161–168.19. Johnson RM, Dahlgren L, Siegfried BD, Ellis MD (2013) J Apic Res. doi:10.3896 /IBRA.1.52.2.18.20. Rousseau A, Giovenazzo P (2016) J Econ Entomol. doi:10.1093/jee/tow056.21. Woyke J, Jasinski Z (1978) Apidologie 9(3):203–212.22. LOCKE SJ, PENG Y ‐S (1993) Physiol Entomol 18(2):144–148.23. Harpur BA, Minaei S, Kent CF, Zayed A (2012) Mol Ecol. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05614.x.24. Hunt G, Given KJ, Tsuruda JM, Andino GK (2016) Bee Cult 8:41–47.

 

 

About Me

In 2006, many commercial beekeepers close to me lost 80% of their colonies. These beekeepers nearly lost their livelihoods. For them, beekeeping has become more difficult than everso I became determined to find sustainable solutions for colony losses within the beekeeping industry.I pursued honey bee research because I understood the current plight of beekeepers. With my personal connections with over 30 commercial beekeepers and my 8 years of commercial beekeeping experience, I have become passionate about understanding sustainable solutions for the beekeeping industry. In 2015, I became a master’s student at North Dakota State University. My research focused on queen failures, a growing issue for beekeepers. After graduation, I began working for the Bee Informed partnership, and I observed similar queen issues with the 30 Midwest beekeepers I worked with. I was perplexed by this issue and decided to pursue my PhD at Purdue UniversityMy research will focus on using genomic techniques to understand drone fertility, and eventually, improve commercial queen stocks with this information.  Besides my deep passion for bees I am interested in travelling, officiating wrestling, Minnesota professional sports, photography, and triathlon/running competitions.

Publications

  • Helm, B. R., Slater, G. P., Rajamohan, A., Yocum, G. D., Greenlee, K. J., & Bowsher, J. H. (2017). The geometric framework for nutrition reveals interactions between protein and carbohydrate during larval growth in honey bees. Biology open6(6), 872-880.

Geometric Framework of Nutrition-Honey Bees

Using in vitro rearing, we investigated the roles and interactions between carbohydrate and protein content on larval survival, growth, and development in A. mellifera. We applied a geometric framework to determine how these two nutritional components interact across nine artificial diets.
  • Bruckner, N. Steinhauer, K. Rennich, …..G. P. Slater, M. E. Wilson, D. vanEngelsdorp, G. R. Williams. (in prep). A national survey of managed honey bee 2017–2018 annual colony losses in the USA. Journal of Apicultural Research
Since the mass die-offs of colonies in the USA during the winter of 2006–2007, generally termed “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD), annual colony loss surveys have been conducted. These surveys gage colony losses among beekeepers of all operation sizes, recruited to participate via regional beekeeping organizations, phone calls, and postal mail. In the last three years, these surveys include summer and annual losses in addition to winter losses.
  • P. Slater, G. D. Yocum, and J. H. Bowsher. (in prep). Diet Quantity and Caste Determination in Honey bees. PNAS
In social hymenoptera, female offspring can become either reproductive queens or sterile workers. Environmental cues determine caste, and in the case of honey bees, nutrition drives queen and worker development. A qualitative substance in royal jelly is thought to drive this divergence; yet, this substance has not been found. Diet quantity regulates caste determination in many bee species; yet, studies on honey bees have focused on qualitative differences in diet. Our goal was to determine the relative contributions of diet quantity and quality to caste determination in honey bees. 
  • P. Slater J. H. Bowsher. (in prep). Eusocial Caste Determination: A meta-analysis. Insect Sociaux
This study aims to determine whether nutrition is an evolutionary conserved mechanism between simple and complex social systems. We review and synthesize published literature on caste determination in eusocial hymenoptera to answer the following questions: (1) Does nutrition determine caste in the majority of social hymenoptera? (2) Or are other environmental and/or genetic factors more prominent? (3) Do the environmental and genetic factors differ between cyclical and permanent eusocial species? (4) Is there variation between family, genus, and species in their response to common environmental cues? (5) Is there a comparative viewpoint for caste determination? 

garettslater_cv_2019 (1)

 

Garett Slater


Garett.p.slater@gmail.com · 1413 Broad St. N.Mankato, MN 55379

 

Education


2015 BS, North Dakota State University, Department of Biology, Fargo, ND, USA

2015-2017 MS, North Dakota State University, Department of Biology, Fargo, ND, USA

  • Graduate Advisor: Dr. Julia H. Bowsher

 

Grants and Awards


  • Office of Research Support Travel Grant, $500
  • Gordon A. Larson Agriculture Research Grant, NDSU Development Foundation, $1,790
  • College of Science and Math travel award, $250
  • North Dakota Department of Agriculture Research Grant, $50,000
  • General Mills Pollinator and Diversity Grant, $25,000

 

Publications


  1. Helm, B. R., Slater, G. P., Rajamohan, A., Yocum, G. D., Greenlee, K. J., & Bowsher, J. H. (2017). The geometric framework for nutrition reveals interactions between protein and carbohydrate during larval growth in honey bees. Biology open6(6), 872-880.
  2. Bruckner, N. Steinhauer, K. Rennich, …..G. P. Slater, M. E. Wilson, D. vanEngelsdorp, G. R. Williams. (in prep). A national survey of managed honey bee 2017–2018 annual colony losses in the USA. Journal of Apicultural Research
  3. P. Slater, G. D. Yocum, and J. H. Bowsher. (in prep). Diet Quantity and Caste Determination in Honey bees. PNAS
  4. P. Slater J. H. Bowsher. (in prep). Eusocial Caste Determination: A meta-analysis. Insect Sociaux

 

Scientific Presentations


  1. Slater, G.P. (2014) Growth variation using the geometric framework of nutrition in Honey bees (Apis mellifera), NDSU Explore. Fargo, ND, USA
  2. Slater, G.P. (2016) Eat to reproduce: The dietary makings of queen honey bees (Apis mellifera). Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB). Portland, OR, USA
  3. Slater, G.P. (2016) Eat to reproduce: The dietary makings of queen honey bees (Apis mellifera). Northern Plains Symposium. Fargo, ND, USA
  4. Slater, G.P. (2017) Honey bee caste determination: How diet quantity, not quality may determine caste. Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB). New Orleans, LA, USA.
  5. Slater, G.P. (2018) Discussing Bee Informed Partnership and its role in commercial beekeeping operations. North Dakota Commercial Beekeeping Association. Bismarck, ND, USA
  6. Slater, G.P. (2018) Discussing Bee Informed Partnership and its role in commercial beekeeping operations. Wisconsin Beekeeping Association. Wisconsin Rapids, WI, USAs
  7. Slater, G.P. (2018) Discussing Bee Informed Partnership and its role in commercial beekeeping operations. Minnesota Honey Producers Association. St. Cloud, MN, USA

 

Outreach


  • Teach kids and adults about pollinators at various events, including Avenue for Science, Red River Zoo, Younker’s Children Farm, Introductory Biology classes, WDAY Fargo news segment, the local Fargo Paper, and the University of Minnesota hobby beekeeper classes
  • Established and continued observation hives at both the Red River Zoo and Younker’s Children’s farm
  • Blog about various aspects of beekeeping for both the Bee Informed Partnership and a personal blog, The Daily Guide to Beekeeping. Moreover, maintain social media pages for the blog
  • Inspect, teach, and provide recommendations to over 35 beekeepers in the Midwest

 

Research Experience


USDA-ARS Research Assistant, Fargo, ND, USDA

  • Assisted PhD research scientists in designing and performing methods, collecting data, analyzing results, and interpreting data
  • Designed and performed an experiment, which has been published. Also, developed novel honey bee in vitro rearing protocol

 

Bee Informed Partnership, University of Minnesota St. Paul, MN, USA

  • Assisted the University of Minnesota research scientists in designing and performing methods, collecting data, analyzing results, and interpreting data
  • Consulted commercial beekeepers across the Midwest by providing recommendations, colony health reports, long-term trend reports, and analysis of various pests, pathogens, and diseases
  • Conducted longitudinal trials for various universities, coalitions, private companies, and government organizations on commercial operations

 

Teach Experiences


  • TA Anatomy and Physiology II lab, Fargo, ND, USA                             January 2015-May 2015
  • TA Senior Seminar, Fargo, ND, USA                                                August 2015-December 2015
  • TA Antibiotic Discovery, Fargo, ND, USA                                                January 2017-May 2017