Genetic Structure and Potential Environmental Determinants of Local Genetic Diversity in Japanese Honeybees (Apis cerana japonica)

PLoS One. 2016 Nov 29;11(11):e0167233. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0167233. eCollection 2016.


Declines in honeybee populations have been a recent concern. Although causes of the declines remain unclear, environmental factors may be responsible. We focused on the potential environmental determinants of local populations of wild honeybees, Apis cerana japonica, in Japan. This subspecies has little genetic variation in terms of its mitochondrial DNA sequences, and genetic variations at nuclear loci are as yet unknown. We estimated the genetic structure and environmental determinants of local genetic diversity in nuclear microsatellite genotypes of fathers and mothers, inferred from workers collected at 139 sites. The genotypes of fathers and mothers showed weak isolation by distance and negligible genetic structure. The local genetic diversity was high in central Japan, decreasing toward the peripheries, and depended on the climate and land use characteristics of the sites. The local genetic diversity decreased as the annual precipitation increased, and increased as the proportion of urban and paddy field areas increased. Positive effects of natural forest area, which have also been observed in terms of forager abundance in farms, were not detected with respect to the local genetic diversity. The findings suggest that A. cerana japonica forms a single population connected by gene flow in its main distributional range, and that climate and landscape properties potentially affect its local genetic diversity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Bees / genetics*
  • Climate
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Environment*
  • Gene Flow
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genotype
  • Haploidy
  • Japan
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics

Grant support

This study was supported by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI, Grant Number 25740051 to HT and Global Environment Research Funds, S-9 and 5-1407 from the Ministry of the Environment, Japan to HT.