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Honeybee Genome Buzzes Online

By Nancy Touchette

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The genome of the honeybee Apis mellifera makes its debut online this week.
Scientists have completed a draft of the honeybee genome and deposited the sequence in an online database that can be accessed by researchers around the world.

The researchers, led by Richard Gibbs of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, plan to compare the genome to that of other insects, including the fruit fly and mosquito.

Bees are important to agriculture because they produce honey and pollinate crops. They are also used to study aspects of human health such as allergies.

Honeybees are model animals for studying social behavior, and the honeybee genome could provide clues to genes that control bee behavior.

The researchers are particularly interested in comparing the honeybee genome to DNA sequences from Africanized bees. These bees are aggressive and have invaded many areas in the southern United States.

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The project, which began early in 2003, was funded jointly by the US National Human Genome Research Institute and the Department of Agriculture. It cost more than $7.5 million.

The honeybee genome has about 300 million units of DNA and is one-tenth the size of the human genome.

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