Assessing molecular, individual, and colony markers of local and important stocks to improve honey bee health in Alberta

Project Details

Status: Active
Investment: $437,268
Commodity: Bees
Organization: University of Alberta
Investigator: Olav Rueppell

Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba produce 79% of Canadian honey.

Why is this research important for Alberta ag?

Honey bees are an essential component of modern agricultural systems as they are the most important commercial pollinator and the basis of the apicultural industry. Despite best efforts, beekeepers continue to experience high colony losses, threatening the sustainability of beekeeping and pollination services in Alberta and elsewhere. Due to the complex combination of stressors responsible for the decline of honey bee health, specific treatment and management practices are only partially successful.

Globally, there are many ongoing efforts to reduce colony losses, but it's still unclear what kind of markers are best to predict honey bee colony performance and survival. This research aims to compare three markers (molecular tests, individual measurements, and group-level traits) under field-realistic conditions in Alberta.

What benefits can producers expect from this research?

This research provides many benefits to the industry, including developing best management practices and a better understanding or genetics and breeding. The most immediate benefit for the apicultural industry is an evaluation of the quality of three relevant sources of queens for replacing lost colonies. Long-term, this research will guide honey bee breeding efforts to improve honey bee health by generated better stocks, increasing sustainability and profitability of beekeeping. Improving honey bee health also has a positive impact on all pollination services, both paid and unpaid.

How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?

Findings will be shared at annual meetings, leveraged via the Alberta Beekeepers Commission Technology Transfer Team, and published in agricultural news outlets.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.