Beekeeper Conducting Stock Improvement Program for a More Sustainable Honeybee
CLINTON, Tennessee– A beekeeper in eastern Tennessee is hoping to give the struggling honeybee a fighting chance against pests and diseases through a bee stock improvement program.
Michael Wilson of Rosecomb Apiaries (http://www.rosecombapiaries.com) has received a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) Producer Grant to selectively breed honeybee colonies for varroa mite and nosema disease resistance, as well as important economic traits, such as rapid spring population growth, production and good brood pattern. The goal, said Wilson, is to identify queens bred in nucleus colonies with the needed genetic characteristics that will help maintain healthy, sustainable honeybee populations.
“The idea is to demonstrate that individual bee breeders can improve stocks from nationally recognized breeding programs in disease resistance under local conditions,” said Wilson. “By doing so, it should encourage more beekeepers to participate in breeding for stock improvement.”
The project, which began in the spring, involves evaluating bee colonies developed from local Carniolan queens crossbred with the USDA-ARS VSH line of bees that show resistance to varroa mites.
“Bees perform differently in different regions of the country, so I wanted to develop bee stock that would be successful in our area,” said Wilson. “The majority of beekeepers who get their queens from me are local.”
Wilson is evaluating 40 colonies for potential breeding stock for next year, recording the strength of the colonies and the level of varroa mite and nosema disease during the production year. He’ll repeat the study next year, and compare the performance of the colonies between the two years to determine which colony (ies) performed the best.
“The goal is to select the colony or colonies that are the most productive despite encountering mites and disease pressure,” said Wilson. “It’ll be the queens with those genetic traits that will continue to be bred for the honeybee stock improvement program.”
Wilson hopes that the results of the project will help identify honeybee stocks that show resistance to pests and diseases, help reduce pesticide use, and improve performance by developing colonies suitable for Tennessee growing conditions.
More information on the project (FS12-2363), “Selective Breeding of Honeybees for Multiple Traits with a Priority on Nosema Disease Resistance,” can be found on the national SARE projects database. Wilson is also chronicling his research on his blog.
Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region.