Special Issue "Honeybee Breeding"

A special issue of Insects (ISSN 2075-4450).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Marina Meixner
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Landesbetrieb Landwirtschaft Hessen, Bee Institute Kirchhain, Germany
Interests: biogeography of the genus Apis and its species; subspecific diversity of Apis mellifera; bee genetics; conservation of bees and wild pollinators; honey bee breeding
Dr. Ralph Büchler
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Landesbetrieb Landwirtschaft Hessen, Bee Institute Kirchhain, Germany
Interests: honey bee breeding and selection; performance evaluation; varroa-resistant bees; breeding for disease resistance; biotechnical varroa management

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Traditionally, honeybee breeding has been focusing on traits of immediate benefit to apiculturists, such as maximizing honey yield or selecting for traits that allow handling colonies with greater ease, for instance, gentleness or low swarming tendency. In particular since the establishment of breeding value estimation, significant genetic progress has been achieved in this regard.

More recently, following the global spread of the invasive varroa mite together with the limits of chemical parasite control, selection efforts also include approaches towards improved mite resistance of breeding stock, for instance, the suppression of mite reproduction (SMR) or, more specifically, varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH). Recent research efforts have dissected mechanisms underlying these traits, and new avenues in breeding for varroa resistance are opening based on genomic analyses allowing marker assisted selection. 

Not least, breeding efforts to improve the apicultural traits of endangered honeybee populations and subspecies, aiming at increasing their attractiveness to local beekeepers, have recently been initiated and offer the chance of sustainable conservation of honeybee genetic and geographic diversity.

In this Special Issue, we aim at presenting a broad perspective on contemporary selection programs and breeding initiatives on a global scale.

Dr. Marina Meixner
Dr. Ralph Büchler
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • honeybee selection programs mating control varroa resistance suppressed mite reproduction (SMR) varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH) breeding value honeybee diversity conservation by utilization integrated varroa management

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Research

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Article
Comparing Survival of Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus Infection among Stocks of U.S. Honey Bees
Insects 2021, 12(1), 60; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12010060 - 12 Jan 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 656
Abstract
Among numerous viruses that infect honey bees (Apis mellifera), Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV) can be linked to severe honey bee health problems. Breeding for virus resistance may improve honey bee health. To evaluate the potential for this approach, we compared [...] Read more.
Among numerous viruses that infect honey bees (Apis mellifera), Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV) can be linked to severe honey bee health problems. Breeding for virus resistance may improve honey bee health. To evaluate the potential for this approach, we compared the survival of IAPV infection among stocks from the U.S. We complemented the survival analysis with a survey of existing viruses in these stocks and assessing constitutive and induced expression of immune genes. Worker offspring from selected queens in a common apiary were inoculated with IAPV by topical applications after emergence to assess subsequent survival. Differences among stocks were small compared to variation within stocks, indicating the potential for improving honey bee survival of virus infections in all stocks. A positive relation between worker survival and virus load among stocks further suggested that honey bees may be able to adapt to better cope with viruses, while our molecular studies indicate that toll-6 may be related to survival differences among virus-infected worker bees. Together, these findings highlight the importance of viruses in queen breeding operations and provide a promising starting point for the quest to improve honey bee health by selectively breeding stock to be better able to survive virus infections. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Article
Non-Destructive Genotyping of Honeybee Queens to Support Selection and Breeding
Insects 2020, 11(12), 896; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11120896 - 21 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1217
Abstract
In traditional bee breeding, the honeybee queen is chosen for breeding based on the performance of the colony produced by its mother. However, we cannot be entirely certain that a specific queen will produce offspring with desirable traits until we observe the young [...] Read more.
In traditional bee breeding, the honeybee queen is chosen for breeding based on the performance of the colony produced by its mother. However, we cannot be entirely certain that a specific queen will produce offspring with desirable traits until we observe the young queen’s new colony. Collecting the queen’s genetic material enables quick and reliable determination of the relevant information. We sampled exuviae, feces, and wingtips for DNA extraction to avoid fatally injuring the queen when using tissue samples. Quantity and purity of extracted DNA were measured. Two mitochondrial markers were used to determine the lineage affiliation and exclude possible contamination of DNA extracts with non-honeybee DNA. dCAPS (derived Cleaved Amplified Polymorphic Sequences) markers allowed detection of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in nuclear DNA regions presumably associated with Varroa sensitive hygiene and set the example of successful development of genotyping protocol from non-destructive DNA sources. One of the logical future steps in honeybee breeding is introducing genomic selection and non-destructive sampling methods of genetic material may be the prerequisite for successful genotyping. Our results demonstrate that the extraction of DNA from feces and exuviae can be introduced into practice. The advantage of these two sources over wingtips is reducing the time window for processing the samples, thus enabling genotyping directly after the queen’s emergence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Communication
Selective Breeding for Low and High Varroa destructor Growth in Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Colonies: Initial Results of Two Generations
Insects 2020, 11(12), 864; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11120864 - 04 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1070
Abstract
After two years of bidirectional selection for low and high rates of Varroa destructor population growth (LVG and HVG, respectively) in honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies in Ontario, Canada, significant differences between the two genotypes were observed. LVG colonies had V. [...] Read more.
After two years of bidirectional selection for low and high rates of Varroa destructor population growth (LVG and HVG, respectively) in honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies in Ontario, Canada, significant differences between the two genotypes were observed. LVG colonies had V. destructor population increases over the summer of 1.7 fold compared to 9.6 fold for HVG colonies by Generation 2. Additionally, HVG colonies had significantly higher mite infestation rates in adult bees compared to LVG colonies for both selected generations. DWV prevalence and levels were significantly higher in HVG colonies than in LVG colonies in Generation 1 but not in Generation 2. Winter mortality rates of Generation 1 colonies were significantly different at 26% and 14% for the HVG and LVG genotypes, respectively. The results of this study thus far indicate that selection for LVG may result in colonies with lower V. destructor infestation rates, lower prevalence, and levels of DWV and higher colony winter survivorship. Future work will focus on determining what mechanisms are responsible for the genotypic differences, estimating genetic parameters, and molecular analyses of the genotypes to identify candidate genes associated with resistance to V. destructor and DWV that could potentially be used for marker-assisted selection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Article
Substantial Genetic Progress in the International Apis mellifera carnica Population Since the Implementation of Genetic Evaluation
Insects 2020, 11(11), 768; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11110768 - 07 Nov 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1049
Abstract
The Apis mellifera carnica subspecies of the honeybee has long been praised for its gentleness and good honey yield before systematic breeding efforts began in the early 20th century. However, before the introduction of modern techniques of genetic evaluation (best linear unbiased prediction, [...] Read more.
The Apis mellifera carnica subspecies of the honeybee has long been praised for its gentleness and good honey yield before systematic breeding efforts began in the early 20th century. However, before the introduction of modern techniques of genetic evaluation (best linear unbiased prediction, BLUP) and a computerized data management in the mid 1990s, genetic progress was slow. Here, the results of the official breeding value estimation in BeeBreed.eu are analyzed to characterize breeding progress and inbreeding. From about the year 2000 onward, the genetic progression accelerated and resulted in a considerable gain in honey yield and desirable properties without increased inbreeding coefficients. The prognostic quality of breeding values is demonstrated by a retrospective analysis. The success of A. m. carnica breeding shows the potential of BLUP-based breeding values and serves as an example for a large-scale breeding program. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Article
Evaluation of Traits for the Selection of Apis Mellifera for Resistance against Varroa Destructor
Insects 2020, 11(9), 618; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11090618 - 10 Sep 2020
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 1305
Abstract
Infestation with Varroa destructor is a serious cause of bee colony (Apis mellifera) losses on a global level. However, the presence of untreated survivor populations in many different regions supports the idea that selection for resistance can be successful. As colony [...] Read more.
Infestation with Varroa destructor is a serious cause of bee colony (Apis mellifera) losses on a global level. However, the presence of untreated survivor populations in many different regions supports the idea that selection for resistance can be successful. As colony survival is difficult or impossible to measure, differences in mite infestation levels and tests for specific behavioral traits are used for selective breeding for Varroa resistance. In this paper we looked into different definitions of mite infestation and linked these with brood hygiene (pin test), brood recapping and suppressed mite reproduction. We based our analyses on datasets of Apis mellifera carnica from three countries: Austria (147 records), Croatia (135) and Germany (207). We concluded that bee infestation in summer, adjusted for the level of natural mite fall in spring, is a suitable trait in the breeding objective, and also suggested including brood infestation rate and the increase rate of bee infestation in summer. Repeatability for bee infestation rate was about 0.55, for cells opened in pin test about 0.33, for recapping 0.35 and for suppressed mite reproduction (SMR) virtually zero. Although in most cases we observed correlations with the expected sign between infestation parameters and behavioral traits, the values were generally low (<0.2) and often not significantly different from zero. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Article
Evaluation of Suppressed Mite Reproduction (SMR) Reveals Potential for Varroa Resistance in European Honey Bees (Apis mellifera L.)
Insects 2020, 11(9), 595; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11090595 - 03 Sep 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2876
Abstract
In the fight against the Varroa destructor mite, selective breeding of honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) populations that are resistant to the parasitic mite stands as a sustainable solution. Selection initiatives indicate that using the suppressed mite reproduction (SMR) trait as a [...] Read more.
In the fight against the Varroa destructor mite, selective breeding of honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) populations that are resistant to the parasitic mite stands as a sustainable solution. Selection initiatives indicate that using the suppressed mite reproduction (SMR) trait as a selection criterion is a suitable tool to breed such resistant bee populations. We conducted a large European experiment to evaluate the SMR trait in different populations of honey bees spread over 13 different countries, and representing different honey bee genotypes with their local mite parasites. The first goal was to standardize and validate the SMR evaluation method, and then to compare the SMR trait between the different populations. Simulation results indicate that it is necessary to examine at least 35 single-infested cells to reliably estimate the SMR score of any given colony. Several colonies from our dataset display high SMR scores indicating that this trait is present within the European honey bee populations. The trait is highly variable between colonies and some countries, but no major differences could be identified between countries for a given genotype, or between genotypes in different countries. This study shows the potential to increase selective breeding efforts of V. destructor resistant populations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Article
Genetic Parameters of Honey Bee Colonies Traits in a Canadian Selection Program
Insects 2020, 11(9), 587; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11090587 - 01 Sep 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1235
Abstract
Genetic selection has led to spectacular advances in animal production in many domestic species. However, it is still little applied to honey bees (Apis mellifera), whose complex genetic and reproductive characteristics are a challenge to model statistically. Advances in informatics now [...] Read more.
Genetic selection has led to spectacular advances in animal production in many domestic species. However, it is still little applied to honey bees (Apis mellifera), whose complex genetic and reproductive characteristics are a challenge to model statistically. Advances in informatics now enable creation of a statistical model consistent with honey bee genetics, and, consequently, genetic selection for this species. The aim of this project was to determine the genetic parameters of several traits important for Canadian beekeepers with a view to establishing a breeding program in a northern context. Our results show that the five traits measured (Varroa destructor infestation, spring development, honey production, winter consumption, and hygienic behavior) are heritable. Thus, the rate of V. destructor infestation has a high heritability (h2 = 0.44 ± 0.56), spring development and honey production have a medium heritability (respectively, h2 = 0.30 ± 0.14 and h2 = 0.20 ± 0.13), and winter consumption and hygienic behavior have a low heritability (respectively, h2 = 0.11 ± 0.09 and h2 = 0.18 ± 0.13). Furthermore, the genetic correlations between these traits are all positive or null, except between hygienic behavior and V. destructor infestation level. These genetic parameters will be instrumental to the development of a selection index that will be used to improve the capacity of honey bees to thrive in northern conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Article
Honey Bee Queen Replacement: An Analysis of Changes in the Preferences of Polish Beekeepers through Decades
Insects 2020, 11(8), 544; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11080544 - 17 Aug 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1083
Abstract
We conducted a survey on honey bee (Apis mellifera) queen management. Data were collected every year from 1980 to 2018. In total, 2964 questionnaires were collected from all over Poland. We examined the trends by decade timeslot, apiary size, and geographical [...] Read more.
We conducted a survey on honey bee (Apis mellifera) queen management. Data were collected every year from 1980 to 2018. In total, 2964 questionnaires were collected from all over Poland. We examined the trends by decade timeslot, apiary size, and geographical location. Regardless of the decade and the size of the apiary, on average, above 90% of Polish beekeepers replace old queens with new ones in their colonies. In general, during the observed period, beekeepers replaced almost 52% of their queens, 21% of which were purchased. In the last decade, there was an upward trend in the percentage of beekeepers replacing queens throughout the country. The involvement of purchased queens in colony management is associated with the size of the apiary, and it significantly grows with the number of colonies in the apiary. The percentage of purchased queens went up in all the voivodeships over time. Research and education in this area are needed in order to track the trends and further improve Polish beekeepers’ practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Article
Individual-Level Comparisons of Honey Bee (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) Hygienic Behavior Towards Brood Infested with Varroa destructor (Parasitiformes: Varroidae) or Tropilaelaps mercedesae (Mesostigmata: Laelapidae)
Insects 2020, 11(8), 510; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11080510 - 07 Aug 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 766
Abstract
The mites Varroa destructor Anderson and Trueman and Tropilaelaps mercedesae Anderson and Morgan are both serious threats to the Apis mellifera beekeeping industry. A trait frequently used in selection programs for V. destructor resistance is hygienic behavior, the selective removal of diseased/damaged brood. [...] Read more.
The mites Varroa destructor Anderson and Trueman and Tropilaelaps mercedesae Anderson and Morgan are both serious threats to the Apis mellifera beekeeping industry. A trait frequently used in selection programs for V. destructor resistance is hygienic behavior, the selective removal of diseased/damaged brood. Here, we measured the level of association of the expression of hygienic behavior against both mites in A. mellifera, by observing whether the same individual bees would carry out the opening and removal of brood infested by the two parasites. The groups of bees showing these behaviors on cells artificially infested by either parasite showed a large overlap, making it appear likely that the two traits are at least closely coupled. Therefore, breeding for V. destructor resistance based on hygienic behavior could prepare A. mellifera populations for dealing with Tropilaelaps sp. mites, and vice versa. Using the same bioassay, we also compared the hygienic behavior of A. mellifera towards T. mercedesae to that of the Asiatic honey bee, Apis cerana. A. cerana workers eliminated a greater proportion of infested cells, which may in part explain the resistance of this bee to Tropilaelaps and the observation that Tropilaelaps reproduction on brood of this species is extremely rare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Article
Descriptive Analysis of the Varroa Non-Reproduction Trait in Honey Bee Colonies and Association with Other Traits Related to Varroa Resistance
Insects 2020, 11(8), 492; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11080492 - 01 Aug 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1475
Abstract
In the current context of worldwide honey bee colony losses, among which the varroa mite plays a major role, the hope to improve honey bee health lies in part in the breeding of varroa resistant colonies. To do so, methods used to evaluate [...] Read more.
In the current context of worldwide honey bee colony losses, among which the varroa mite plays a major role, the hope to improve honey bee health lies in part in the breeding of varroa resistant colonies. To do so, methods used to evaluate varroa resistance need better understanding. Repeatability and correlations between traits such as mite non-reproduction (MNR), varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH), and hygienic behavior are poorly known, due to practical limitations and to their underlying complexity. We investigate (i) the variability, (ii) the repeatability of the MNR score, and (iii) its correlation with other resistance traits. To reduce the inherent variability of MNR scores, we propose to apply an empirical Bayes correction. In the short-term (ten days), MNR had a modest repeatability of 0.4, whereas in the long-term (a month), it had a low repeatability of 0.2, similar to other resistance traits. Within our dataset, there was no correlation between MNR and VSH. Although MNR is amongst the most popular varroa resistance estimates in field studies, its underlying complex mechanism is not fully understood. Its lack of correlation with better described resistance traits and low repeatability suggest that MNR needs to be interpreted cautiously, especially when used for selection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Article
An Alternative, High Throughput Method to Identify Csd Alleles of the Honey Bee
Insects 2020, 11(8), 483; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11080483 - 30 Jul 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 942
Abstract
Applying instrumental insemination in closely related honey bee colonies often leads to frequent lethality of offspring causing colony collapse. This is due to the peculiarities of honey bee reproductive biology, where the complementary sex determination (csd) gene drives sex determination within [...] Read more.
Applying instrumental insemination in closely related honey bee colonies often leads to frequent lethality of offspring causing colony collapse. This is due to the peculiarities of honey bee reproductive biology, where the complementary sex determination (csd) gene drives sex determination within a haplodiploid system. Diploid drones containing homozygous genotypes are lethal. Tracking of csd alleles using molecular markers prevents this unwanted event in closed breeding programs. Our approach described here is based on high throughput sequencing (HTS) that provides more data than traditional molecular techniques and is capable of analysing sources containing multiple alleles, including diploid individuals as the bee queen. The approach combines HTS technique and clipping wings as a minimally invasive method to detect the complementary sex determiner (csd) alleles directly from honey bee queens. Furthermore, it might also be suitable for screening alleles of honey harvested from hives of a closed breeding facility. Data on alleles of the csd gene from different honey bee subspecies are provided. It might contribute to future databases that could potentially be used to track the origin of honey. With the help of tracking csd alleles, more focused crossings will be possible, which could in turn accelerate honey bee breeding programmes targeting increase tolerance against varroosis as well. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Article
Long-Term Evaluation of Breeding Scheme Alternatives for Endangered Honeybee Subspecies
Insects 2020, 11(7), 404; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11070404 - 30 Jun 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1124
Abstract
Modern breeding structures are emerging for European honeybee populations. However, while genetic evaluations of honeybees are becoming increasingly well understood, little is known about how selection decisions shape the populations’ genetic structures. We performed simulations evaluating 100 different selection schemes, defined by selection [...] Read more.
Modern breeding structures are emerging for European honeybee populations. However, while genetic evaluations of honeybees are becoming increasingly well understood, little is known about how selection decisions shape the populations’ genetic structures. We performed simulations evaluating 100 different selection schemes, defined by selection rates for dams and sires, in populations of 200, 500, or 1000 colonies per year and considering four different quantitative traits, reflecting different genetic parameters and numbers of influential loci. Focusing on sustainability, we evaluated genetic progress over 100 years and related it to inbreeding developments. While all populations allowed for sustainable breeding with generational inbreeding rates below 1% per generation, optimal selection rates differed and sustainable selection was harder to achieve in smaller populations and for stronger negative correlations of maternal and direct effects in the selection trait. In small populations, a third or a fourth of all candidate queens should be selected as dams, whereas this number declined to a sixth for larger population sizes. Furthermore, our simulations indicated that, particularly in small populations, as many sires as possible should be provided. We conclude that carefully applied breeding provides good prospects for currently endangered honeybee subspecies, since sustainable genetic progress improves their attractiveness to beekeepers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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Review

Jump to: Research

Review
Geographical Distribution and Selection of European Honey Bees Resistant to Varroa destructor
Insects 2020, 11(12), 873; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11120873 - 08 Dec 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2227
Abstract
Developing resistance to the varroa mite in honey bees is a major goal for apicultural science and practice, the development of selection strategies and the availability of resistant stock. Here we present an extended literature review and survey of resistant populations and selection [...] Read more.
Developing resistance to the varroa mite in honey bees is a major goal for apicultural science and practice, the development of selection strategies and the availability of resistant stock. Here we present an extended literature review and survey of resistant populations and selection programs in the EU and elsewhere, including expert interviews. We illustrate the practical experiences of scientists, beekeepers, and breeders in search of resistant bees. We describe numerous resistant populations surviving without acaricide treatments, most of which developed under natural infestation pressure. Their common characteristics: reduced brood development; limited mite population growth; and low mite reproduction, may cause conflict with the interests of commercial beekeeping. Since environmental factors affect varroa mite resistance, particular honey bee strains must be evaluated under different local conditions and colony management. The resistance traits of grooming, hygienic behavior and mite reproduction, together with simple testing of mite population development and colony survival, are significant in recent selection programs. Advanced breeding techniques and genetic and physiological selection tools will be essential in the future. Despite huge demand, there is no well-established market for resistant stock in Europe. Moreover, reliable experience or experimental evidence regarding the resistance of stocks under different environmental and management conditions is still lacking. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Honeybee Breeding)
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