28 Jul 2012

Breeding varroa-resistant bees 'no silver bullet'

3:30 pm on 28 July 2012

The National Beekeepers' Association says the development of bees resistant to the varroa mite is a work in progress, but it won't be a silver bullet.

Varroa, which arrived in this country in 2000, is regarded as the most damaging honeybee pest in the world.

Hundreds of beekeepers have signed up for workshops on the results of a research project designed to develop varroa-resistant bees.

Association president Barry Foster says the trait needed to resist the mite has been identified and it is now a matter of breeding it into queen bee stock - but that won't be easy.

He says bees mate in the air, which means there is a mixing of genes from other hives in the vicinity.

Mr Foster says the best way to maintain some of the desired traits is by artificial insemination and artificial breeding techniques that are currently available.

The aim, he says, should be to "take those out into the industry and not necessarily train every beekeeper in the way to do it - because it's quite a complex and expensive and knowledge-based activity - but to enable business champions within the industry to pick this up and carry it forward".

Mr Foster says with the mite starting to become resistant to chemicals, there is a looming threat to beekeepers and the agricultural sectors that rely on bees for pollination.