Thursday, August 26, 2010

Breeding Mite Resistant Bees.

Recently a British beekeeper has developed a mite resistant honeybee. 

Ron Hopkins, a 79-year-old beekeeper from Swindon, discovered using a microscope that bees in one of his hives had learned how to remove the parasite from each others' bodies by grooming each other. So Mr Hopkins set about trying to spread the genes of his "grooming" bees to his other hives, using artificial insemination. It worked, and now he's hoping that it will spread via wandering queens to the rest of the bee population in Britain.
Hopkins knows that the Swindon Honeybee, as his strain has been named, is not a short-term solution. "It will take a lot of work, but it could be our only hope of saving the bee," he said today. "What I want to do is redevelop the British bee so that it can protect itself against these varroa mites. If all the bees in the world die out, then we die out. The situation is really that serious."
Yugoslavian honeybees are know for their hygienic behavior, cleaning mites off of each other.   Breeding traits into bees has been challenging since many desirable traits are not dominant and will drop out after several generations.  Hygienic behavior may not be matched with traits of a bee that is hardy for winter climates or  queens that lays a large and robust colony.  Too many years of bee breeding with lack of genitic diversity  has caused trouble.  Looking to the Africanized bees migrating north from South America, they are aggressive but much more resilient to CCD and mites.  Over time, breeding with native bees has made the Africanized bees a little less aggressive.   Using the crucible of Mother nature with natural selection honeybees have survived for 30 million years and will continue to, but breeding traits that we deem important is much more difficult to balance a honeybee for domestic production and a honeybee bred solely for survival.

No comments: