FIRST AIRED: August 16, 2018

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>> They are the fuzzier, friendlier flyers of the bee world, and their population is in decline. But researchers in Canada are working to save the yellow-banded bumblebee. And the solution could be found in the insects' genome. The yellow-banded bumblebee was once common in Southern Ontario in Quebec, and is now listed as vulnerable to extinction globally.
Scientists who sequenced this genome say inbreeding and disease may be to blame. Inbreeding is especially bad for bees, because it increases the chances of producing sterile males, which then drives the population decline even further. There is also fear that disease may be spreading to wild bumblebees to commercial bumblebees using greenhouses that forage outside for nectar.
And could be transmitting pathogens through the flowers they visit. Bumblebees are key pollinators of crops such as blueberries and cranberries. And are almost the only insect pollinator of tomatoes in the U.S., according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This marks the first time the genome of an at-risk bumblebee has been mapped using new sequencing technology.
>> We're hoping that as more genomic resources come online for different bees, bumblebees, but other native bees. We could start to get a better handle at what is causing, what are the main stressors driving the decline.