Language selection


Sustaining and securing Canada’s honey bees using ‘omics approaches

Borba R, Baylis K, Bixby M, Currie RW, Derome N, Fournier V, Giovenazzo, P, Guarna MM, Hoover SE, Pernal SF, Zayed A, Foster LJ (2017) Sustaining and securing Canada’s honey bees using ‘omics approaches. American Bee Research Conference, 12-13 Jan 2017, Galveston, TX. Bee World, 93(4): 105.


Overwintering mortality of honey bee colonies in Canada has been continuously greater than the acceptable range of 0% to 15% since the winter of 2006/2007 (Leboeuf et. al., 2016 The main causes of colony death, as reported by Canadian beekeepers, include high pathogen/parasite infestation levels (e.g. Varroa mites, Nosema spp.), poor quality queens and severe weather conditions. Every year, Canadian beekeepers import hundreds of thousands of queens, mainly from the U.S.A. The importation of foreign queens has the potential to introduce undesirable pathogens or genetics and supply bees that have not been selected to survive in northern temperate climates (Parker et al., 2010 PLoS One 5(6):e11096). The goal of our project is to measure 12 economically-valuable traits of honey bees (colony phenotypes) and develop genomic and proteomic markers for each trait that will enable beekeepers to rapidly select and breed healthy and productive colonies that are well adapted to the Canadian climate. In 2016, 1045 colonies across Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec) were sampled and phenotypic data was collected for the following colony-level traits: 1) Varroa mite population growth 2) grooming behaviour; 3) hygienic behaviour; 4) defensive behaviour; 5) honey production; 6) sealed brood population; 7-9) pathogen abundance (viruses, Nosema spp., Trypanosomatids); 10) innate immunity factors; 11) gut microbiota; and 12) overwintering success. Pre-wintering measurements for colony overwintering success were taken in the fall of 2016 and will be concluded in the spring of 2017. Here, we will present a sub-set of the phenotypic data collected during 2016. The measurement of colony-level traits and the identification of bio-markers for each trait comprise the first step of this novel research. In the summer of 2017, putative markers will be validated against a test population, with the end goal of having this technology transferred to end-users, such as the National Bee Diagnostic Centre (Beaverlodge, AB), where it will be made available to beekeepers. This is the first large-scale study for marker assisted selection in honey bees using integrated genomics and proteomics tools. Our innovative research will promote a healthier honey bee population and support the sustainability of the Canadian beekeeping industry.

Report a problem on this page
Please select all that apply:
Date modified: