Ge­netic bee re­search could pro­tect Aussie bees from Var­roa mite

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - NEWS -

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.

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