Marker-assisted selection of disease-resistance traits is an effective IPM tool in honey bees

Hoover SE, Bixby M, Pernal SF, Currie RW, Guarna MM, Foster LJ (2016) Marker-assisted selection of disease-resistance traits is an effective IPM tool in honey bees. XXV International Congress of Entomology 2016, 25-30 Sept 2016, Orlando, FL.

Abstract

Introduction: European honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) face numerous health challenges including bacterial, microsporidian, acarine, and other pathogens. Concern surrounds the use of many chemical treatment options, including antibiotics and pesticides, because they leave residues in honey or wax, may be damaging to the bees themselves, and resistance has developed in pathogen populations. As part of an integrated pest management strategy, honey bee breeders wish to select for mite- and disease-resistant stock. Breeding such stock can be very effective, however identifying and quantifying disease-resistance traits can be time-consuming, expensive, and require specialised techniques and equipment. We discuss our research using marker-assisted selection to produce disease-resistant stock, and its role in the integrated pest management of honey bees. Methods: Three successive generations of honey bees were bred using either a traditional disease-resistance assay (hygienic behaviour), or proteomic-based marker assisted selection. The final generation was then evaluated in three separate experiments and in commercial beekeeping operations across Western Canada. The results of the experiments and beekeeper data were subsequently used to model the economic impact of integrating the use of marker-selected stock into a beekeeping management paradigm. Results/Conclusion: Marker-assisted selection is a promising tool for bee breeders to select for desirable traits in honey bees. Disease-challenge experiments with American foulbrood disease and Varroa destructor demonstrated that the selected stocks had lower disease symptoms and increased winter survival than unselected stocks. Disease-resistance traits bred into bee populations using this technique can be an effective part of an integrated pest management strategy.

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