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Keywords:

  • Bombus ;
  • Hymenoptera;
  • microsatellite;
  • noninvasive sampling

Abstract

Genetic studies provide valuable data to inform conservation strategies for species with small or declining populations. In these circumstances, obtaining DNA samples without harming the study organisms is highly desirable. Excrements are increasingly being used as a source of DNA in such studies, but such approaches have rarely been applied to arthropods. Bumblebees are ecologically and economically important as pollinators; however, some species have recently suffered severe declines and range contractions across much of Western Europe and North America. We investigated whether bumblebee faeces could be used for the extraction of DNA suitable for genotyping using microsatellite markers. We found that DNA could be extracted using a Chelex method from faecal samples collected either in microcapillary tubes or on filter paper, directly from captured individuals. Our results show that genotypes scored from faecal samples are identical to those from tissue samples. This study describes a reliable, consistent and efficient noninvasive method of obtaining DNA from bumblebees for use in population genetic studies. This approach should prove particularly useful in breeding and conservation programs for bumblebees and may be broadly applicable across insect taxa.