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Goals & Objective: Goal 4
Objective 4.2

Obj 4.2: Use knowledge of genetics to improve bee breeding

(Delaplane, Hunt, Sheppard, Spivak, Webster, Wilson)

Rationale and significance
In objectives within Goal 1 we will be identifying the most virulent pathogens, as well as both relatively resistant and relatively susceptible stocks of bees. In Goal 2 we hope to incorporate traits that help honey bees resist pathogens and parasitic mites and to increase genetic diversity of commercially available stocks. Some of the genetic knowledge generated from Goal 2 is directed at long-term goals of marker-assisted selection (MAS) and determining which genes respond to pathogens. The feasibility of MAS may depend on additional fine-scale mapping and confirming the effects of specific genes on resistance which is probably beyond the scope of this project. However, selecting for resistance and screening for genetic diversity provide immediate opportunities for technology transfer to improve commercial stocks and the survivability of bee colonies. 

Expected outcomes

  1. Workshops to educate queen breeders on selection for resistance at 7 universities,
  2. increased number of queen producers testing for pathogens and adopting selection,
  3. evaluation of adoption of breeding methods and increase in queen production, and
  4. increased use of selected queens from genetically diverse sources.

Summary Statement for Goal 4
The knowledge-delivery component of our CAP has been one of the most visible and tangible successes of our project. A monthly CAP column series is published in the two beekeeping magazines, keeping CAP and its work visible to the beekeeping industry. The Bee Health eXtension website is quite simply one of the best research-based web resources for honey bee health and management anywhere. With monthly page views exceeding 31,000 it is patently proving an effective medium for delivering knowledge with the latest technology and most potent media. The BMP Guide for California almond pollinators is another tangible benchmark – a new standard for bee management with strong buy-in by scientists as well as practicing beekeepers. These kinds of lateral linkages, rather than top-down, will be invaluable in integrating science-based bee health management practices into the American beekeeping industry. This CAP goal also constitutes the most human element of our project. Here are represented numerous extension-style workshops, shortcourses, and lectures on bee genetics and breeding. None of these tops what CAP cooperator Marla Spivak has accomplished in her “Bee Team” – a tech transfer initiative with full-time on-the-ground staff in California dedicated to helping commercial queen producers learn techniques for genetically improving their bee stocks. The Bee Team model was instrumental in synergizing another successful honey bee CAP – the Bee Informed Platform recently begun in early 2011.

This is an extension-heavy objective with many participants and some redundancies with Goal 2. Greg Hunt’s group at Purdue conducted a queen-rearing shortcourse at Purdue in 2009 and in 2010. Greg published an article in the monthly CAP column in American Bee Journal and Bee Culture about his work on grooming behavior and progress towards mapping genes for resistance. Last year, two queen-rearing courses were offered, one in Indiana and one at the Heartland Apiculture Society (HAS) conference in Tennessee (along with J Skinner and M Wilson). Due to strong demand for this course, two three-day courses will be offered at the 10th HAS conference at Vincennes, Indiana in July this year.
Delaplane gave lectures across the Southeast and in England on Superorganism theory,
polyandry, and their implications for bee breeding. As part of his annual Young Harris College Beekeeping Institute, he brought in Debbie Delaney from University of Delaware to conduct classes on honey bee genetics and breeding.

In 2010-2011, Sheppard’s lab continued selection and propagation of honey bee stocks underway since 2001. As described in 2.2, he has begun controlled releases of new European lines of Apis to beekeepers in the PNW.

These activities will continue into year 4.


Publications of objective 4.2 principal investigators (Delaplane, Hunt, Sheppard, Spivak, Webster, and Wilson) to date during the CAP

Afik, O., W. Hunter, and K.S. Delaplane. 2010. Effects of varroa mites and bee diseases on pollination efficacy of honey bees. Proceedings of the American Bee Research Conference, Orlando, Florida. American Bee Journal 150(5): 497

Andino, G.K. and G.J. Hunt. 2010. A new assay to measure mite grooming behavior, pp
497-511. In Proceedings, 2010 American bee research conference, 14-15 January
2010, Orlando FL. Am. Bee J.150:5. Also, Apidologie DOI: 10.1007/s13592-011-0004-1

Berry, J.A., W.B. Owens, & K.S. Delaplane. 2010. Small-cell comb foundation does not impede Varroa mite population growth in honey bee colonies. Apidologie 41: 41-44 doi 10.1051/apido/2009049

Delaplane, K.S. & J.A. Berry. 2009. A test for sub-lethal effects of some commonly used hive chemicals. Proceedings of American Bee Research Conference, Gainesville, Florida. American Bee Journal 149(6): 586

Delaplane, K.S. and J.A. Berry. 2010. A test for sub-lethal effects of some commonly used hive chemicals, year two. Proceedings of American Bee Research Conference, Orlando, Florida. American Bee Journal 150(5): 498-499

Delaplane, K.S., J.D. Ellis, and W.M. Hood. 2010. A test for interactions between Varroa destructor (Acari: Varroidae) and Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) in colonies of honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America

Ellis, J.D., S. Spiewok, K.S. Delaplane, S. Bucholz, P. Neumann, & L. Tedders. 2010. Susceptibility of Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) larvae and pupae to entomopathogenic nematodes. Journal of Economic Entomology 103(1): 1-9 doi 10.1603/EC08384

Evans, J.D., M. Spivak. 2010. Socialized Medicine: Individual and communal disease
barriers in honey bees, Journal Invert. Pathol. 103, S62-S72

Heintz, C, M. Ribotto, M. Ellis, K.S. Delaplane. 2011. Best Management Practices (BMPs) For Beekeepers Pollinating California’s Agricultural Crops. American Bee Journal, 151(3):265-268

Hunt, G.J. 2010. Breeding bees for resistance to parasites and diseases. American Bee
Journal, 150(7):667-669

Lee, K, Reuter GS, M. Spivak. 2010. Standardized sampling plan to detect Varroa densities in colonies and apiaries. Am. Bee J. 149(12):1151-1155

Mader, E., M. Spivak, E. Evans. 2010.  Managing Alternative Pollinators: A Handbook for Growers, Beekeepers and Conservationists”  NRAES/ SARE Publication.  250pp., ISBN 978-1-933395-20-3

Pettis, J.S. and K. S. Delaplane. 2010. Coordinated responses to honey bee decline in the USA. Apidologie

Oxley, P., M. Spivak, & B.P. Oldroyd. 2010. Six quantitative trait loci influence task thresholds for hygienic behaviour in honeybees (Apis mellifera). Molecular Ecology 19: 1452–1461

Spivak, M., G.S. Reuter. 2008. New direction for the Minnesota hygienic line of bees. American Bee Journal 148(12):1085-1086

Spivak, M., G.S. Reuter, & B. Ranum. 2009. The future of the MN hygienic stock of bees
is in good hands! American Bee Journal, 149(10): 965-967

Spivak M. 2010. Honey bee “Medial records”: The stationary apiary project. Managed
Pollinator CAP Update. Bee Culture.150(3): 270-274

Spivak, M. 2010. Honey bee “medical records”: the stationary apiary monitoring project.
American Bee Journal, 149(3):271-274

Spivak, M., Y. Le Conte. 2010. Special issue on bee health. Apidologie, DOI:

Spivak M, E. Mader, M. Vaughan, N.H., Jr. Euliss. 2011. The plight of bees. Environ.
Sci. & Technol.45: 34-38. *Editor’s Choice Award, ES&T Best Feature Paper

Spivak, M. 2011. Laying groundwork for a sustainable market of genetically-improved
queens: The bee team. Managed pollinator CAP Update. Am. Bee J. 151(5): 483- 385

Swanson, J.A., I.B. Torto, S.A. Kells, K.A. Mesce, J.H. Tumlinson, & M. Spivak. 2009. Odorants that induce hygienic behavior in honeybees: Identification of volatile compounds in chalkbrood-infected honeybee larvae. J. Chem. Ecol. 35: 1108- 1116

Webster, T.C., F. E. Dowell, E. B. Maghirang, E. M. Thacker. 2009. Visible and near-infrared spectroscopy detects queen honey bee insemination. Apidologie. 40:565-569

Webster, T.C. 2010. Nosema ceranae -- the inside story. American Bee Journal. 150(4):367-370

Webster, T and K.A. Aronstein. Nosema ceranae Detection by Microscopy and Antibody
Tests. (ed. Samataro) Honey bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable solutions (ed. Diana Samataro): Book chapter 10: Taylor and Francis, LLC. (accepted, 2011)

Williams, G.R., D.R. Tarpy, D. vanEngelsdorp, M.P. Chauzat, D.L. Cox-Foster, K.S. Delaplane, P. Neumann, J.S. Pettis, R.E.L. Rogers, D. Shutler. 2010. Colony Collapse Disorder in context. BioEssays doi: 10.1002/bies.201000075

Wilson, M. and J. Skinner. 2009. European foulbrood: A bacterial disease affecting
honey bee brood. website:

Wilson, M., J. Skinner, K. Delaplane, and J. Pettis. 2010. Bee Health @ a
web platform for the creation and dissemination of science-based recommendations. Proceedings of the American Bee Research Conference 2010. American Bee Journal, 150 (4):497- 511

Further Background Information
Documentation of CAP progress in general, and of this objective in particular, is available through the following sources:

  1. Bee Health, an eXention initiative for peer-reviewed scientific recommendations
  2. Colony Collapse Disorder Progress Report for 2009
  3. Breeding Bees for Resistance to Parasites and Diseases
  4. Genetic Toolkits for Bee Health
  5. Laying Groundwork for a Sustainable Market of Genetically-Improved Queens

Updated July 22, 2011.