Conservation Genetics

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 689–700 | Cite as

Quantitative conservation genetics of wild and managed bees

  • Sheina Koffler
  • Astrid de Matos Peixoto Kleinert
  • Rodolfo Jaffé
Research Article


Quantitative genetic traits provide insights into the evolutionary potential of populations, as heritability estimates measure the population’s ability to respond to global changes. Although wild and managed bees are increasingly threatened by the degradation of natural habitats and climate change, risking plant biodiversity and agriculture production, no study has yet performed a systematic review of heritability estimates across the group. Here we help fill this knowledge gap, gathering all available heritability estimates for ants, bees, and wasps, evaluating which factors affect these estimates and assessing the reported genetic correlations between traits. Using a model selection approach to analyze a dataset of more than 800 heritability estimates, we found that heritability is influenced by trait type, with morphological traits exhibiting the highest heritability estimates, and defense and metabolism-related traits showing the lowest estimates. Study system, sociality degree, experimental design, estimation type (narrow or broad-sense heritability), and sample size were not found to affect heritability estimates. Results remained unaltered when correcting for phylogenetic inertia, and when analyzing social bees separately. Genetic correlations between honeybee traits revealed both positive coefficients, usually for traits in the same category, and negative coefficients, suggesting trade-offs among other traits. We discuss these findings and highlight the importance of maintaining genetic variance in fitness-related traits. Our study shows the importance of considering heritability estimates and genetic correlations when designing breeding and conservation programs. We hope this meta-analysis helps identify sustainable breeding approaches and conservation strategies that help safeguard the evolutionary potential of wild and managed bees.


Bee breeding Conservation Genetic correlations Heritability Hymenoptera 



We would like to thank the Shalene Jha, Margarita Lopez-Uribe, and Antonella Soro for organizing this special issue on bee conservation genetics. We also thank Dr. Tiago B. Quental for the interesting discussion on phylogenetic analyses and three anonymous referees for providing constructive suggestions to our manuscript. Funding was provided by Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (SK), and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (RJ, Grant Number 478982/2013-5).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheina Koffler
    • 1
  • Astrid de Matos Peixoto Kleinert
    • 1
  • Rodolfo Jaffé
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Institute of BiosciencesUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Vale Institute of Technology- Sustainable DevelopmentBelémBrazil

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