Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bees Are The New Silkworms

Date:
November 27, 2007
Source:
CSIRO Australia
Summary:
Moths and butterflies, particularly silkworms, are well known producers of silk. And we all know spiders use it for their webs. But they are not the only invertebrates who make use of the strength and versatility of silk.

Honey bees with pupal brood cells. Honeybee larvae produce silk to reinforce the wax cells in which they pupate.
Credit: Nick Pitsas, CSIRO

Moths and butterflies, particularly silkworms, are well known producers of silk. And we all know spiders use it for their webs. But they are not the only invertebrates who make use of the strength and versatility of silk.

Dr Tara Sutherland and her group from CSIRO Entomology are looking at silks produced by other insects and the results of their recent work have been published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, in the paper Conservation of Essential Design Features in Coiled Coil Silks.

“Most people are unaware that bees and ants produce silk but they do and its molecular structure is very different to that of the large protein, sheet structure of moth and spider silk. The cocoon and nest silks we looked at consist of coiled coils - a protein structural arrangement where multiple helices wind around each other. This structure produces a light weight, very tough silk,” she says.

“We had already identified the honeybee silk genes,” says Dr Sutherland, “and now we have identified and sequenced the silk genes of bumblebees, bulldog ants and weaver ants, and compared these to honeybee silk genes. This let us identify the essential design elements for the assembly and function of coiled coil silks”.

“To do this, we identified and compared the coiled coil proteins from cocoon and nest silks from species which span the evolutionary tree of the social Hymenoptera (bees, ants and wasps),” she says.

Bees and ants produce high-performance silk and, although the silks in all these species are produced by the larvae and by the same glands, they use them differently.

Honeybee larvae produce silk to reinforce the wax cells in which they pupate, bulldog ant larvae spin solitary cocoons for protection during pupation, bumblebee larvae spin cocoons within wax hives (the cocoons are reused to store pollen and honey), and weaver ants use their larvae as ‘tools’ to fasten fresh plant leaves together to form large communal nests..

These groups of insects have evolved silks that are very tough and stable in comparison to the classical sheet silks and it is probable that the evolution of this remarkable material has underpinned the success of the social Hymenoptera.

Coiled coil silks are common in aculeate social insects i.e. those that have stings but not in aculeate parasitic wasps. These social insects are higher up the evolutionary tree and the coiled coil silks appear to have evolved about 155 million years ago.

The silk research is part of the joint CSIRO and Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC) Crop Biofactories Initiative (CBI).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by CSIRO Australia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

CSIRO Australia. "Bees Are The New Silkworms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071126092140.htm>.
CSIRO Australia. (2007, November 27). Bees Are The New Silkworms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071126092140.htm
CSIRO Australia. "Bees Are The New Silkworms." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071126092140.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins