Genetic bee research could protect Aussie bees from Varroa mite
THE development of a genetic test that allows imports of semen from honey bees from resistant breeding stock is one step closer thanks to research from Australian scientists.
Beekeepers will be able to protect themselves from the devastating Varroa mite with a new test likely to allow imports of honey bee semen from resistant breeding stock without putting the industry at risk from another pest – Africanised bees.
Africanised bees are hybrids of European honey bees and A. m. capensis from Africa that are highly aggressive, unsuitable for beekeeping, and extremely invasive.
The development of a genetic test to differentiate Africanised bees from non-Africanised bees could allow imports of honey bee semen from countries that have desirable stock, but also have Africanised bees.
The research has been carried out by Nadine Chapman and Ben Oldroyd from the University of Sydney as part of the Honey Bee and Pollination Program, a partnership between the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Horticulture Innovation Australia and the Australian Government.
Chair of the program’s advisory panel Michael Hornitzky said honey bee breeders in Australia have a keen interest in importing strains of honey bees bred for resistance to diseases, as well as other types of genetically improved stock.
“Australia is currently home to the only significant population of Varroa-free European honey bees in the world but we cannot be complacent as our bees have little resistance to this mite,” he said.
“While we’ve been able to import queen bees from countries without Africanised bees, this will allow semen to be tested and brought in from other countries without the risk of importing Africanised bees as well as Varroa which is not transmitted through semen.”
Dr Hornitzky said the research is of even greater importance in the wake of a species of Varroa mite being found on Asian Honey bees in Townsville, North Queensland.
“The opportunity to import more strains of bees that have been bred for resistance to the Varroa mite would offer a safeguard for the future of not only our industry, but also the broader agriculture sector that relies so heavily on a healthy honey bee population,” he said.
He added that the Africanised honey bee test offers exciting possibilities in regards to the draft policy review for the importation of honey bee semen currently being considered by policy makers.
For more information visit www. rirdc.gov.au/honeybee-pollination.
KILLER BEES: Researchers have developed genetic tests to differentiate semen from bees such as this Apis mellifera capensis queen, black Capensis worker, and yellow Apis mellifera scutellata.