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Goals & Objective: Goal 4
Objective 4.3

Obj 4.3: Lay groundwork for a sustainable market for genetically-improved queens

(Spivak, Delaplane)

Rationale and significance
Honey bee genetics will play a role in the reversal of bee decline only if a market for genetically-improved queens is created and sustained. Both sides of the market must be addressed: quality control and supply on the part of queen producers, and sustained demand for improved stock by beekeepers. In this objective we focus on the queen producer. We propose to significantly improve U.S. queen stocks by a concerted extension training effort, first targeting California queen producers, followed by a study of the feasibility of a national stock certification program. Such a program would provide an objective measure of producers’ adherence to protocols for selecting and maintaining stocks with beneficial traits.

Expected outcomes

  1. Workshops to educate queen breeders on protocols for effective breeding practices,
  2. increased number of queen producers testing for pathogens and adopting genetic selection,
  3. barriers identified to establishment of a sustainable market for genetically-improved queens,
  4. barriers identified to establishment of a stock certification program. 

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.

Since 2008, Marla Spivak, her technician Gary Reuter, and her graduate students have been working in California with 17 commercial queen producers with the goal of helping these producers select for hygienic behavior, a trait that helps bees defend against Varroa mites, American foulbrood, and chalkbrood, and teaching them how to sample colonies for Nosema disease. In addition, Sue Cobey from UC Davis has worked with Marla to facilitate stock importations to enhance the genetic diversity of North American Apis. Marla has received overwhelming interest and support from the beekeepers for these services. Moreover, Marla has been able to use modest CAP start-up funds as a springboard to more sustained funding for this strategic on-the-ground tech transfer. With support from the University of Minnesota, the National Honey Board, the Almond Board of California, the Managed Pollinator CAP, as well as the newly-formed Bee Informed Platform CAP, Marla now has one full-time technician in place Katie Lee who will be joined by one more technician summer of 2011. These individuals will be working out of the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Oroville, close to the heart of the bee breeding operations in northern California.

The Bee Team will provide the following services for queen breeders year round:

1. Disease and pest diagnostics
2. Assistance with stock selection and breeding for resistance traits
3. Enhancement of genetic diversity in bee stocks
4. Facilitate cooperative research on relevant topics

The Bee Team will test for hygienic behavior, Varroa mites, and Nosema in at least 50 colonies at each bee breeder’s operation three times each year. The data from the testing will be provided to each bee breeder in a timely manner to help them make informed decisions on choosing breeder queens and on appropriate treatments. The bee breeders have agreed to pay a fee for these services so that in the future, the Bee Team can be self-sustaining. If this model works well, we hope to find funding to establish similar teams to assist queen producers in the Southeast and other regions of the U.S.

The published completion date of 14 July 2012 has been substantially met.


Publications of objective 4.3 principal investigators (Spivak and Delaplane) 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

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

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

Lee K.V., R.D. Moon R.D., E.C. Burkness, W.D. Hutchison, M. Spivak. 2010.  Practical sampling plans for Varroa destructor (Acari: Varroidae) in Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera: Apiae) colonies and apiaries. J. Econ. Entomol. 103(4): 1039-1050

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

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

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

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

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., 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.

Photo by Zachary Huang, Michigan State University
Photo by Zachary Huang,
Michigan State University