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BeeBytes is bringing


data-driven innovation to the mapping of native honey bee populations


That information will then be used to build a real-time data map of native bee populations across the UK, which will help inform beekeepers of the viability of the subspecies in their areas. Over the longer term the company also hopes to commercialise a pollen meta- barcoding service – a DNA analysis used to understand honey bee, bumblebee and solitary bee nutrition by sequencing samples of pollen brought back to the hive or nest. This product will be able to determine what flowers bees are feeding on, giving beekeepers valuable information about what to plant locally to ensure


their colonies thrive on the best available nutrients. In time, the company may also develop a “bee MOT” to perform individual health checks for beekeepers’ colonies. The low-cost genotyping to


identify native honey bees and the meta-barcoding of pollen are just the first steps in developing genetic testing, and will provide a valuable early income generator. Both of the products will initially be focused on UK markets, but the techniques can be applied internationally. There are estimated to be 274,000 honey bee hives in the UK, approximately 44,000 amateur beekeepers and 200 professional bee farmers.


Honey bee colonies in Europe and the United States are in decline. This is not thought to be due to a single factor, but instead to be the result of changes in forage availability, new pests and diseases, pesticides, climate change and beekeeping practices. BeeBytes wants to illuminate the bigger picture on pollinator decline, to assist in the breeding of honey bees that are better


suited to modern ecosystems. Barnett said: “BeeBytes aims to help UK beekeepers select and breed their preferred type of honey bee and will increase the available knowledge on honey bee genetics by working in partnership with the beekeepers themselves. We will support the conservation of the native UK honey bee and help to monitor honey bee health.”


FUTURESCOT | SPRING 2021 | 11


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