Partnering with Plan Bee leads to easier genetic selection says The Bee Farmer

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Adrian Grew knows a thing or two about producing quality bees.

Adrian Grew knows a thing or two about producing quality bees.

Whilst he may be a relative newcomer to the commercial beekeeping industry, he cut his teeth working for Australian Queen Bee Exporters where he gained all the skills and knowledge that would set him up later to run The Bee Farmer.

When it comes to queen breeding, Adrian’s ethos is “queen breeding isn’t about the number of queens you produce, it’s about how many you cull which are not up to standard,” he said.

It’s that commitment to quality queens that saw Adrian start The Bee Farmer, a bee breeding business that aims to produce the highest quality queens which achieve the best results for his customers.

“I don’t produce queens, I breed genetically superior queens,” he said.

It was this passion for breeding high-performing queens that led Adrian to working closely with Agrifutures Plan Bee Project.

Plan Bee is a national program which seeks to use innovative breeding technologies and genetic selection to help secure Australia’s honey bee population, accelerating productivity and helping safeguard bee stocks against disease.

Adrian says working with Nadine Chapman and Liz Frost, researchers within the program, has helped him breed queens based on specific selection criteria.

“I’ve been working with Liz on artificial insemination (AI), which has enabled me to significantly narrow the gene pool to select for very specific criteria,” he said.

“For example, when selecting for docility, I was able to produce a hive that was so docile, no smoke was needed and no amount of disturbance caused the bees to become agitated.

“Unfortunately, that hive didn’t produce enough honey to be viable, but it was interesting to see the potential of genetic selection.

“I worked with the Plan Bee team to submit the data supporting this selection, which was a quick and easy process. That information will be key in building a national database for genetic selection.

“Importantly, the work of Plan Bee has reminded us of the importance of collecting data. However, the project still leaves trait selection and the data collection up to us.

According to Adrian, Plan Bee is a critical tool as we look to shore up the security of the industry.

“As a whole program, it’s a very important tool to have – not just for genetic diversity. It’s creating a community of stakeholders with a similar interest with the tools to be able to combat exotic pest incursions such as varroa,” he said.

“Plan Bee is trying to create better, healthier bees with solid genetic diversity.

“This in turn will mean better honey production, better pollination services and it will also raise the profile of genetically superior queens, such as the ones I produce.

Genetic selection is a boon for bee breeders.

While untested queens are sold for around $35 dollars each, tested and genetically superior queens will typically sell for at least double that.

Any bee breeders looking to get involved with the Plan Bee program to support with genetic selection and data collection should reach out to Nadine Chapman (Nadine.chapman@sydney.edu.au).

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