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Keywords:

  • Apis mellifera ;
  • domestication;
  • genetic diversity;
  • Single Nucleotide Polymorphism

Humans have been keeping honey bees, Apis mellifera, in artificial hives for over 7000 years. Long enough, one might imagine, for some genetic changes to have occurred in domestic bees that would distinguish them from their wild ancestors. Indeed, some have argued that the recent mysterious and widespread losses of commercial bee colonies, are due in part to inbreeding. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Harpur et al. (2012) show that the domestication of honey bees, rather than reducing genetic variance in the population, has increased it. It seems that the commercial honey bees of Canada are a mongrel lot, with far more variability than their ancestors in Europe.