Pollination of crops by honey bees and production of honey is worth $14.2 billion in annual economic value to Australia. To efficiently achieve this, beekeepers need to breed the best quality bees for crop pollination and honey production. Using innovative breeding technologies, this project will help secure Australia’s honey bee population and transform their performance. The Program will focus on identifying and selecting traits of importance to beekeeping, horticulture and broad acre industries (dependent on pollination services) and will develop a national database to assist beekeepers choose their breeding stock according to these traits.
The strength of this project is its ability to leverage benefits across two industries – beekeeping and agriculture. Through research, partnerships and education the project will generate gains for beekeepers in honey production and improve productivity and profitability for primary producers in pollination-dependent industries.
Extensive research into current honey bee breeding programs, including into the needs of beekeepers and agriculture, will lead to identification of the genetic traits that drive economic performance through honey production, bee health and pollination efficiency.
The project will:
- Facilitate an economic evaluation of the feasibility and sustainability of a national bee breeding scheme through collaboration with established international R&D programs on bee genetics and genomics.
- Conduct genetic and genomic analysis to establish pedigree and genetic merit of bees and hives
- Implement standardised selection criteria that enables accurate assessment of bees and hives to improve honey bee genetic performance, decrease costs, reduce the impact of disease, increase the amount of honey produced and increase the value of hives as pollination units
- Evaluate new technologies for performing standardised hive assessments
- Develop a database of genetic merit to assist queen breeders with marketing their stock and help beekeepers make purchasing decisions; this will also act as a proof of concept around a database of this capacity
Partnerships will be developed between researchers, beekeeping industries and agriculture with the aim of improving beekeeping profitability and ensuring security of pollination.
Education within this project will focus on removing barriers to the adoption of improved selection procedures and delivering extension programs that increase the capacity and skills of queen bee producers, beekeepers and pollination contractors.
WE NEED YOU: Pollination survey
The Plan Bee project continues to explore how we can improve the productivity and value of the honey bee and pollination industries. To continue to guide the program, we are seeking input from growers in the avocado, almond and blueberry industries and beekeepers to understand the challenges affecting pollination services, and the opportunities where Plan Bee can help overcome existing issues.
By completing this 5-minute survey, you will help ensure that the Plan Bee program progresses with the pollination services industry at its core.
Survey for growers: https://redcap.sydney.edu.au/surveys/?s=JT3JDL9PNR
Survey for beekeepers: https://redcap.sydney.edu.au/surveys/?s=CMN8KFM3PP
Surveys are critical to the progress of Plan Bee. For example, a survey conducted in 2020 has helped guide the selection or traits for genetic improvement. That survey helped us identify priorities for beekeepers and queen bee breeders. It told us that honey production and brood pattern were the most important traits, just ahead of other traits such as chalkbrood resistance, hygienic behaviour and European foulbrood resistance.
For more information on the 2020 survey click here