New paper on the conservation genomics of bumblebees

By , July 9, 2021

Check out this new open access article from the lab on the conservation genomics of the yellow banded bumblebee. It is a fun collaboration with Dr. Sheila Colla at YorkU, and was led by Dr. Nadia Tsvetkov (a recent graduate from the lab).  It is really tricky to understand why bumblebees are declining; we have some general ideas, but to be able to go to the field and diagnose why a specific population is not doing well is not trivial at all. In this paper, we tried to use emerging genomic tools for bumblebees to play ‘detective’. We asked if looking at patterns of gene expression in the actual bees can give us clues as to the type of stressors they experience in the field.  Check out the article here, and the press release from YorkU here!

Postdoctoral positions in genomics, pollen meta-barcoding, and ecology

By , February 24, 2021

The honey bee lab ( at York University’s Dept. of Biology (Toronto, Canada) has several positions available starting Summer of 2021. Projects include:


1) Developing bio-markers for honey bee health: Our group is leading a national initiative called BeeCSI ( which will systematically expose honey bees to a large number of relevant stressors to identify transcriptional biomarkers associated with exposure. We are looking for a postdoctoral fellow with experience in transcriptomics and interest in honey bee biology to participate in both wet-lab and bioinformatics components of this research.


2) Molecular palynology: To better understand the role of nutrition in bee health, our group is looking for a postdoctoral fellow with experience in DNA barcoding and meta-barcoding to identify the source and diversity of pollen collected by honey bee colonies situated near and far from a large number of crops in Canada. The postdoctoral fellow will work closely with collaborator and molecular palynology expert, Dr. Rodney Richardson (University of Maryland), in addition to collaborating with other researchers on the BeeCSI team (


3) Landscape and bee health: We are assembling a rich dataset of pests, pathogens, pesticides, pollen diversity and transcriptomic profiles in a very large number of honey bee colonies from across Canada. We are looking for a postdoctoral fellow with experience in spatial ecology to study how landscape interacts with multiple stressors to influence honey bee health in the field.


Qualified candidates are encouraged to submit a cover letter outlining their expertise, a CV, reprints of relevant papers, and contact information for 3 referees to between now and April 20th 2021. We will evaluate the applications as they are received.


In addition to the honey bee lab, York University is home to the Center for Bee Ecology, Evolution and Conservation (BEEc, Successful candidates will have a chance to interact with the diverse faculty, fellows and students at BEEc, and participate in BEEc activities and training initiatives.


Duration: 2 years

Salary: $50,000 including benefits.

Nadia defends her PhD!

By , February 24, 2021

A bit belated, but big congrats to Dr. Nadia Tsvetkov on successful defending her PhD last December! Nadia’s thesis was awarded with distinction and nominated for a thesis dissertation prize. She boldly explored the effects of field realistic exposure to pesticides on Honey bee health using a variety of tools and perspectives. She also carried out a really cool conservation genomic study of the declining bumblebee Bombus terricola. Her Science paper is ranked among the top 1% of papers based on how often it has been cited, and she has won a bunch of awards including the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturist’s Student Merit Award and Entomological Society of Canada’s President Award. Nadia has taken up a postdoctoral position at the University of British Columbia. Below are a few pictures of Nadia – the field Czar – in action!

Congrats Dr. Tsvetkov! We will miss the energy and passion that your brought to the lab.

Nadia; Only dedicated students inspect colonies in the rain with no gloves!!!


Postdoc Rodney Richardson landed a faculty position in the US!

By , July 23, 2020

Big congrats to current Zayed lab postdoc, Dr. Rodney Richardson, for landing an assistant professor position at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science!

Rodney will be transition to his new life as a Prof in October 2020. Well done Rodney!

Graduate Positions, Bee Genomics, Toronto

By , December 10, 2019

Multiple graduate positions in honey bee health genomics at York University, Toronto, Canada.

The Zayed lab ( in the Department of Biology at York University (Toronto, Canada) is looking for enthusiastic graduate students (PhD or MSc), starting September 2020, to carry out research on a Genome Canada funded project called BeeCSI ( Our team will develop biomarkers for a large number of stressors, and combinations of stressors, that affect the health of honey bees. This effort will ultimately involve analysis of approximately 3,000 honey bee transcriptomes, proteomes and gut microbiomes in collaboration with a large network of researchers from across Canada including colleagues at UBC, AAFC, University of Manitoba, University of Guelph, and Laval University.

Successful candidates will receive training in genomics, bioinformatics and sociobiology in a very collaborative environment. Additionally, candidates will benefit from interacting with many researchers at YorkU’s Bee Ecology, Evolution and Conservation consortium (BEEc, Together, BEEc includes 10 full time faculty (4 bee biologists, 1 mathematician, 1 engineer, and 4 social scientists), 39 graduate students, 11 post-doctoral fellows, and 4 research assistants and associates.

Toronto is a great city to live and work in; BEEtheNORTH! If you are interested, please send your c.v., contacts for 3 references, and a cover letter to

Information about applying to graduate school at York University can be found here


Amro Zayed

New students and international visitors

By , September 6, 2019

A big welcome to Tae and KC who are starting graduate school in the lab this fall. Congrats to KC for earning an NSERC scholarship to do her research here on honey bee genetics. Also, a big welcome to Yassin, a visiting postdoctoral fellow from Turkey and Naiara, a visiting PhD student from Brazil; both managed to secure competitive scholarships from their home institutions to come and train here in honey bee genomics.

L-R: Yassin, Tae, KC, Naiara

And here is most of the lab sporting their new #BeeTheNorth t-shirts :)…

Top (L->R). Simran, Rodney, Tanu, Ida, Yassin, Katie, Dova, KC. Bottom (L->R) Tae, Amro, Arshad, Nadia, Naiara, Bandelle

The lab turns 10!

By , September 4, 2019

Hi All. We are celebrating our 10th year at York University this summer. Where did the time go… I still have vivid memories of the first year, the first experiment, the pre-tenure marathon, the random lab certificates, the epic battles with reviewer 3, the coffee runs, the spontaneous celebrations, and the infamous SDI all-nighter… I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had the pleasure of working with many fabulous people that have helped me and the lab grow over the past 10 years. Thanks a million!!!

For fun, here are a few fun pictures of our journey over the past decade…

2009 – the OG crew! Clement was the first to join the lab, followed by 3 promising undergrads

Zayed Lab, Nov 2009














2010 – First colonies and first honey crop 🙂

2011 – crew getting bigger, Amro still has hair, and the birth of the ‘Bee Unit’

2012 – A bit of an epic year for us…first, we put in a lot of work to do this crazy experiment, which totally fails … “Why do you look so serious Brock… we still have next year?”

still 2012 – the famous SDI all-nighter.  Note to self, pulling SDI all-nighters is a terrible idea.

but the after party was fun…

Not everything failed miserably in 2012… we entered into the lovely world of population genomics… little did we know  that this genomics stuff was going to shape our lives for years to come…

we also got to eat sweet PNAS cake in 2012… ahhh, the look on the cake lady’s face when i asked her to draw fig. 1 🙂

Brock also published this little paper in 2012… it was … ahem … not controversial at all…  😉

We also graduated our first two students in 2012 – yay! 

2013. The calm before the storm…
lab is still getting big. Many fabulous undergrads here! Brock stayed for his PhD and we welcomed 2 new MSc students (Nadia and Daria). Also, legends of the ‘Lior 1000’ started popping up everywhere in the building… Lior – now in med school – managed to extract DNA from 1000 bees in near record time!  That is a lot of phenol chloroform folks!




Dr. Alivia Dey also joined the lab in 2013 – yay!

2014 was a really big year. hmmm, where to begin…Our population genomic study go published in PNAS, which meant that we got to taste PNAS cake again; Cake lady at Longos thinks i am officially mad now.

Nadia launched us into the world of NNIs and bee health… Children of the Corn!

I got tenure

Tenured Card

Samir Kadri brought us some ‘killer’ bees from Brazil. #funguy

Samir and his ‘killer’ bees

and some colleagues from across Canada started plotting for a mega honey bee health genomics project – BeeOMICS!

then, there was the famous “Breaking Bee” portrait… Go ahead… Ask me for an extension on your assignment… 😉

2015 – Sweet STAYbbatical for me. Lab is still getting bigger


We got to celebrate and help launch the BeeOMICs project!


We also replaced Lior with a Robot, which we called the Lior 3000 🙂 [no Liors were harmed during this]

2016 – Realizing the potential for comedy, I finally said goodbye to my receding hair line… and boldly went bald 

in 2016, we also witnessed the creation of a masterpiece in photography: Katie contemplates the meaning of life while watching Alivia pipette 6x dye… transcendental?  why not?

We had a fun time at ICE 2016 in Florida

Brock, Nadia, Katie and myself, along with a few colleagues at ICE 2016

– we started the year with celebrating Brock and Katie’s graduation

The picture below also documents the birth of the tremendous trio! Stephen + Tanu + Harshil = 2+2 -1 = quick maths!

We also initiated some new students into honey bee research


and Nadia published her PhD study on bees and pesticides in the journal Science… it certainly made for an interesting (and exhausting) few months! 

2018 – this first pic here really took me by surprise. My son came back from school yelling  “Dad, Dad, you are in my science homework!”… sure enough, some of the work he was doing in his class had referenced Nadia’s PhD research on bees… published just a few month back… crazy eh?

Then came one of the funniest exchanges during a committee meeting… ever!
Stephen – in a very bold move, presented me and his advisor with a roll of tissue paper ahead of his progress report meeting; He told us that his report was so awesome that we were going to ‘poop our pants’; after a few seconds of shock (and a bit of admiration – no body can pull off something like that except for Stephen), the perfect reply presented itself… i returned the tissue paper roll back to Stephen, and jokingly said “thanks, i don’t need this, i plan to wipe [] with your thesis later”. Tou Ché 🙂 This was the only time i managed to stump Stephen; his report was indeed awesome

We also had a really fun outing at Cold Spring Harbor in the spring of 2018

I co-organized the Cold Spring Harbor meeting on social insect genomics with wonderful colleagues Dr. Sarah Kocher (Princeton) and Dr. Seirian Sumner (University College London)

And when you get that choice, to sit it out or dab… I hope you dab! I hope you dab!

2019 – i think 2019 will go down in the books as another big year for us
Here is an early pic from January after Dr. Rodney Richardson joined the lab… we are still eating cake! 

Oh Captain, My Captain, where art though spirit ?

I had a fun time ‘being’ the entertainment for the first ever CRAM festival. 

and because Genome Canada’s grants are like M&M’s – you can’t have just one –  I spent about 9 months working with colleagues on developing another major proposal, called BeeCSI… Here is part of the team preparing in Toronto before the final showdown – a dragon’s den / shark tank type interview that determines our success or failure… i haven’t gotten so nervous about giving a talk since… ever!

Team BeeCSI – L->R: Steve Pernal, Miriam Bixby, Leonard Foster, Rob Currie, Ida and myself


and here is a picture of us after the big interview in Calgary in May …  yes I borrowed  Laurence Packer’s Bee tie for the big interview… #Lucky Tie

Then, a few days before our 10th anniversary in July, came one of the most epic days in the history of the lab. It started with 2/3rds  of the tremendous trio graduating and the whole crew vigorously celebrated over an extended lunch.


and just when we thought that the celebrations were done, I got a call from Ontario Genomics telling me that our BeeCSI proposal just got funded… Clement snapped these candid pics… Needless to say, the lab went nuts. I can still hear #beethenorth bellowing across the halls of Lumbers and Farquharson! 

So, thanks to all current and past members of the Bee Unit – you’ve made ‘going to work in the morning’ one of my favourite parts of the day! Also, a big thanks to our collaborators – for sharing the fun of discovery with us!



Lab Tech Position, Zayed lab, York University, Toronto, Canada

By , August 8, 2019

Greetings all. We have an opening for a lab tech position in the lab. please see below.

Lab Tech Position, York University, Toronto, Canada

The Zayed Lab ( in the Department of Biology, York University (Toronto, Canada), has a position available for a Lab Tech with expertise in insect molecular biology and genetics starting Fall 2019.

The successful candidate will participate in a pioneering project to improve the health of Canadian honey bees. Our research will measure stressor-induced changes in the honey bee transcriptome in order to identify diagnostic markers of colony health.

We are particularly seeking individuals that have expertise in RNA extraction and gene expression profiling, as well as experience in training and working with undergraduate students.

Degree: MSc or PhD in Biology

Starting Salary: $45,000 per year

Please submit your cover letter, CV, and contact information for 3 referees to We will continue to receive applications until a suitable candidate is hired.

New lab paper on social isolation and learning in bees

By , May 10, 2019

Hot off the press: PhD candidate Nadia Tsvetkov in my group collaborated with Dr. Chelsea Cook at Arizona State University to study the effects of group size on learning and memory in the honey bee. We found the group size did affect how bees responded to sugar rewards and how they learned to discriminate between sugar and salt based on odour cues.

Nadejda Tsvetkov, Chelsea N. Cook, Amro Zayed. 2019. Effects of group size on learning and memory in the honey bee Apis mellifera. 

Dr. Rodney Richardson joins the lab

By , February 20, 2019

I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Rodney Richardson who just started a postdoc in our group. Rodney joins us from Ohio State University where he pioneered methods for molecular diagnostic of pollen collected by honey bees. Here he is behind the BeeOMICS matrix! Welcome Rodney!