In order to best reflect honey bee biology, data generated from molecular-genetic studies should reflect as closely as possible the state of honey bee tissues, entire bees, or colonies just prior to sampling. This fact places a premium on collecting and storing samples in a way that retains this state. Although technological developments in molecular biology allow for a great diversity of insights from collected bee samples, it is often forgotten how much these insights are hampered by errors in the collection, storage and processing of samples (Chernesky et al., 2003). These problems are especially evident when data from different studies or laboratories are compared (Birch et al., 2004). The only solution to this is optimization of collection, storage and primary processing protocols, so as to minimize the influence of sample degradation on the molecular analyses and the reliability of the data. As is often the case, cues can be taken from other areas of biology, notably the medical field, where such practices are widely adopted (Valentine-Thon et al., 2001; Verkooyen et al., 2003).
A secondary consideration is that a sample may be used for several different analyses; proteins, nucleic acids, fats and lipids, metabolites etc., requiring a collection and processing protocol suitable for all compounds analysed. Usually this means that the sample management conditions follow the requirements for the least stable of the compounds, which for bee research is usually the RNA. RNA is highly sensitive to degradation by robust RNAse enzymes found in all cells, unless the sample is stabilized with RNAse-inhibiting additives and/or frozen as soon as possible. Given the necessity of RNA analyses for many questions related to bees and their parasites and pathogens (e.g., de Miranda et al. 2013), field-appropriate methods for stabilizing RNA are required.