The BEE Lab started out working predominately on bees, including the commercial honey bee (Apis mellifera), Asian bees (Apis cerana and other Apis spp) and Australian stingless bees (Tetragonula, Austroplebeia). We have since incorporated other organisms including acellular slime moulds, mites, bee viruses, birds and more.
We combine genetics and genomics with behaviour and ecology fieldwork. We have a well-equipped molecular laboratory and bee house in the Macleay Building, Camperdown campus and perform bee work at the University of Sydney's Crommelin Research Station ('Warrah'), Pearl Beach. We also undertake fieldwork across Australia, and overseas.
Honeybees are an ideal model system to study how societies suppress selfish behaviour by individuals. We study such questions in a selected 'anarchistic' line of honey bees in which the majority of the workers lay eggs in the presence of a queen, and the African Cape honeybee (A. m. capensis) whose workers can clone themselves via thelytokous parthenogenesis. We also study two types of genomic conflict between paternal and maternal genomes and intergenomic conflict between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes.
Bees are fantastic systems for investigating a range of questions in evolutionary genetics. We use the African Cape honeybee to explore the genetic basis of thelytokous parthenogenesis. We use invasive Asian honey bees to understand how populations evolve after genetic bottlenecks. We use comparative genomics of social bees to understand how social traits evolve. We apply genetic and genomic tools to understand virus evolution in bees.
Bees are vital to Australian food security, via their role as crop pollinators. They are also the basis of our honey industry. We work on diverse projects that will benefit Australian bees and the industries that rely on them. These projects aim to protect Australian bees from pests and pathogens, breed better honey bees, and understand the dynamics of our wild bee populations.
We investigate how coevolution shapes the interactions of hosts and parasites. We aim to understand host-parasite dynamics between honey bees, Varroa mites and viruses, and to understand the change in viral landscape that occurs when honey bees are infected with mites. We also study brood parasites and their hosts in a range of systems, as they are excellent models for understanding coevolutionary processes.
For information about opportunities to work or collaborate with the Social Insects lab, visit our website or on our facebook page.