THERE has been a major step forward in the development of a sustainable national bee breeding program for Australia, with modern genetic techniques to be used to improve bee seedstock.
Launched today, the Plan Bee Breeding Manual is designed to assist queen bee breeders capture and record data, helping them selectively breed for specific traits and produce better queens.
This is expected to result in a more valuable, productive and profitable beekeeping industry, with a flow benefits to pollination dependent industries.
Importantly, the manual empowers breeders to take full control of the traits which they intend to select for, as well as providing methods for recording data on these traits.
The manual guides breeders on how to select for certain traits that are most desired by beekeepers including honey production, disease resistance, aggression or overwintering ability.
Nadine Chapman from The University of Sydney said the manual would help unlock the potential of the beekeeping industry by helping breeders produce queens that lead to more productive, more efficient bees with lower costs associated with disease management.
"We surveyed over 200 beekeepers and queen bee breeders to help us understand the most important traits for bee production," Dr Chapman said.
"They told us honey production and brood pattern were the most important traits followed by chalkbrood resistance, hygienic behavior and European foulbrood resistance.
"As a result, we've been careful to ensure that the Plan Bee Breeding Manual reflects these priorities."
Liz Frost from the NSW Department of Primary Industries said the program aimed to encourage breeders to record data on their queens and share with the national genetics program, to further bolster genetics and breeding outcomes.
"We are currently recruiting queen bee breeders who are recording data or those willing to start and working with them on the collection of critical information," Ms Frost said.
"Looking into the future, the data records from queen bee breeders can then be used to support others toward genetic improvement and ultimately boost the productivity and profitability of the entire honey bee and pollination industry."
Ultimately as queen bee breeders chase their own breeding goals, the national program will support the industry by increasing demand for genetically superior queens, ensuring the true value of good quality queens is recognised and rewarded.
The manual was delivered as part of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment Rural R&D for Profit Program.
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