Genetic selection offers massive honey production boost

How queen bee genetics can increase honey production

Horticulture
SWEET TIMES: Genetic selection of queen bees could increase average hive production by 1kg a year. Photo - CSRIO.

SWEET TIMES: Genetic selection of queen bees could increase average hive production by 1kg a year. Photo - CSRIO.

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A pilot study into the identification of genetic traits in honey bees suggests it is possible to massively bolster honey production and the health of hives in Australia.

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HONEY production could be massively increased and the health of hives significantly improved by following the lead of the livestock industry.

The research suggests the use of modern genetic techniques to select queen bee breeders – like those already used in the livestock industries – could increase average hive production by around 1kg/year indefinitely.

A 1kg/hive/year increase could be worth more than $32 million over the next 25 years.

The research has been carried out by Rob Banks from the University of New England as part of the Honey Bee and Pollination Program, a partnership between the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (HIA) and the Australian Government.

The program’s advisory panel chair Michael Hornitzky said one of the benefits of using genetics more effectively was that the effects are cumulative.

“Each year’s improvement builds on the previous one,” Dr Hornitzky said.

PRODUCTION INCREASE: Honey Bee and Pollination Program Advisory Panel chair Michael Hornitzky says genetic performance recording techniques could massively bolster honey production and the health of bee hives in Australia.

PRODUCTION INCREASE: Honey Bee and Pollination Program Advisory Panel chair Michael Hornitzky says genetic performance recording techniques could massively bolster honey production and the health of bee hives in Australia.

“This research has determined that both honey production and hygienic behaviour can be inherited by queens’ offspring, and there’s potential to measure other traits such as temperament and hive over-wintering weight.

“Of course, it’s important to realise there are other factors that can influence overall production, such as location of the hives and the length of the season, so the collection of data needs to be done properly.”

The report Genetic Evaluation of Australian Honeybees using BLUP procedures includes recommendations on what data should be collected and how to use the results of genetic evaluation in making rapid genetic progress.

“The next step is for queen breeders to start collecting performance data and have it analysed to identify queens with the best genes, so they can be used as parents of the next generation,” Dr Hornitzky said.

“Further R&D is required to determine a system that ensures consistency between breeders in the way records are kept, to allow greater comparison of different lines, and industry will then need to agree to an approach to putting such a system in place.”

To download a copy of the report or find out more about the Honey Bee and Pollination Program, visit www.rirdc.gov.au/honeybee-pollination.

The story Genetic selection offers massive honey production boost first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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