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Bee-mad Mayor : 23


A queen being instrumentally inseminated for the polyandry experiment


challenge that natural threshold through a technology available to us that is proven and capable of delivering extremely high degrees of polyandry – instrumental insemination. Can we capture and enhance the benefits of polyandry with this technology? What is the upper practical limit to which we can push this biological principle in applied beekeeping?


Sabbatical Work at the NBU My sabbatical work at the NBU is


addressing these questions. My host, Dr Giles Budge, and I are in the second of a two-year experiment in which we have used instrumental insemination to create three classes of queens: inseminated with semen of 15 drones, 30 drones, or 60 drones. We are measuring a range of colony health indicators including brood production, bee population size, varroa mite numbers, comb construction speed and ability of colonies to discover and recruit foragers to a new food source.


Implications for Bee Breeding


What excites me about this work is its comparatively simple implications for honey


August 2013 Vol 95 No 8


bee breeding. If instrumentally enhanced polyandry is shown to be a practical way to improve honey bee colony health and productivity, then it defuses the traditional preoccupation with character-driven selection programmes, a decades-old global effort which in my opinion8


References


1 Palmer, KA and Oldroyd, BP (2000). Evolution of multiple mating in the genus Apis. Apidologie, 31: 235–248.


has been


disappointingly short on delivering game- changing improvements at an industry scale. Moreover, polyandry is not mutually exclusive to traditional character-based selection. Indeed, one can imagine an integrative approach whereby traditional selection programmes furnish the drones to produce highly polyandrous queens.


Sharing the Results


These are the proofs of concept we are challenging at the NBU. I look forward to sharing our results with the beekeepers of Britain and those back home in Georgia. ¤


Acknowledgements


This research is being funded by a grant to Keith Delaplane from the British Beekeepers’ Association and to Giles Budge from the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


2 Liersch, S and Schmid-Hempel, P (1998). Genetic variation within social insect colonies reduces parasite load. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, 265: 221–225.


3 Shykoff, JA and Schmid-Hempel, P (1991). Parasites and the advantage of genetic variability within social insect colonies. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, 243: 55–58.


4 Seeley, TD and Tarpy DR (2007). Queen promiscuity lowers disease within honeybee colonies. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, 274: 67–72. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2006.3702


5 Tarpy, DR (2003). Genetic diversity within honey bee colonies prevents severe infections and promotes colony growth. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, 270: 99–103. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2002.2199


6 Tarpy, DR and Seeley, TD (2006). Lower disease infections in honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies headed by polyandrous vs monandrous queens. Naturwissenschaften, 93: 195–199.


7 Matilla, HR and Seeley, TD (2007). Genetic diversity in honey bee colonies enhances productivity and fitness. Science, 317: 362–364.


8 Delaplane, KS (2011). Integrated pest management in Varroa. In Varroa – Still a Problem in the 21st Century? International Bee Research Association, Cardiff, UK, pp. 43–51.


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