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HealthDNA Sequencing Revolutionizes Conservation Efforts for UK's Bumblebees

DNA Sequencing Revolutionizes Conservation Efforts for UK’s Bumblebees

SureScreen Scientifics, a UK-based science firm, is leading the charge in helping to protect the country’s struggling bee population by utilizing DNA technology to unravel the mysteries of their behavior and potentially discover new species.

Located in Morley, SureScreen Scientifics is believed to be the first commercial firm in the UK to employ DNA analysis for the identification of individual bee species, as well as wasps and hornets, using various materials such as carcasses, pupae, and nest remnants.

Bees, including beloved bumblebees, honeybees, and the numerous solitary bee species that form the UK population, have been severely impacted by factors like farming practices, pollution, climate change, and habitat loss.

Understanding the challenges faced by these vital pollinators relies on the ability of ecologists to locate and identify individual insects, allowing for population monitoring. However, while some bee species are easily identifiable, others present more difficulty. Additionally, without a carcass to work from, it is impossible to identify an insect.

This is where DNA analysis comes into play, as it can be used not only on the insects themselves but also on materials found in their nests, such as old pupae or larvae that failed to develop into mature bees. Wasps and hornets, known indicators of the UK’s ecological health, can also be studied through this approach. For instance, the invasive Asian Hornet poses a significant threat to honeybee colonies, and understanding its presence is crucial.

SureScreen Scientifics has already utilized DNA and environmental DNA analysis for various species, including Great Crested Newts, White-Clawed Crayfish, and bats. In a notable achievement, the company successfully identified two bee species, the Largeheaded Resin bee and the Orange-vented Mason Bee, from pupae remnants found in a piece of wood that had previously served as a nest.

The process involves breaking down a sample, such as a bee’s leg or a section of its pupae, using a pestle and mortar. The resulting material is then subjected to a series of liquid solutions, releasing the DNA it contains. Further processing removes impurities, resulting in a pure DNA trace. This DNA is then subjected to polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a technique also employed in COVID testing, which amplifies the DNA for genetic sequencing. The resulting species-specific DNA sequence is then cross-referenced with other bee DNA sequences in an international database to identify the species accurately.

Leading the company’s work in insect DNA analysis is Chelsea Warner, a lab technician at SureScreen Scientifics and a self-professed bumblebee enthusiast. Her efforts aim to enhance ecologists’ understanding of bee behavior, distribution, and survival in the wild. Additionally, this research holds the potential to unveil new undiscovered bee species.

Chelsea, who studied bees as part of her Master’s degree in conservation biology at the University of Derby and volunteers with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, emphasized the reliability of DNA analysis in species identification. Furthermore, DNA analysis provides the advantage of not requiring an actual bee specimen to confirm its presence in the wild.

Chelsea expressed her excitement about analyzing more bee, wasp, and hornet materials in the future, highlighting the power of DNA analysis as a technique. As she delves deeper into the world of bees, her knowledge expands, and she recognizes the profound impact they have on humanity in a world where ecological balance is increasingly threatened.

SureScreen Scientifics, the sister company of the double King’s Award-winning firm SureScreen Diagnostics, also offers materials consultancy and testing for manufacturing and the automotive supply chain. Their Neo Vos brand provides at-home gut and nutritional health test kits, which are analyzed by the company, with personalized recommendations provided based on the results.

As the urgency to protect bee populations and their habitats grows, the utilization of DNA sequencing and analysis represents a promising avenue for scientific research and conservation efforts. SureScreen Scientifics’ pioneering work in bee DNA analysis offers hope for a better understanding of bee populations, behaviors, and ultimately, more effective strategies for their preservation.

Sam Allcock
Sam Allcock
With over 20 years of experience in the field SEO and digital marketing, Sam Allcock is a highly regarded entrepreneur. He is based in Cheshire but has an interest in all things going on in the North West and enjoys contributing local news to the site.
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