Progressing implementation of genetic selection in Australian Honeybees

University of New England

  • Project code: PRJ-010257

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Saturday, July 30, 2016

  • Project completion date: Wednesday, October 9, 2019

  • National Priority: HBE-Identify and develop technology for improved hive performance.


RIRDC Project PRJ-009276 demonstrated proof-of-concept for application of BLUP methods to genetic evaluation of Australian bees. The datasets analysed in that project were small, and limited in detail of pedigree, but results show the existence of useful genetic variation in production and health traits, providing the basis for genetic improvement.
This follow-up project aims to progress genetic improvement of Australian honeybees for production and health traits through a combination of:
– analysis of queen relationships in the breeding program of the Horner family to enable more powerful genetic analysis than was possible in the previous project
– working with the Horners with assistance of NSW DPI to collect heath data, including rapid hygienic behavior, for inclusion in this analysis, and other breeders if they can be identified
– collection of DNA samples from other breeding programs – including the Better Bees program and any others with suitable data – to build a relationship map of Australian queen breeding programs. This map will underpin genetic evaluation of queens from different breeding programs, and inform breeders on the degree of inbreeding in the Australian population
– working with NSW DPI and others in industry to develop educational material on practical breeding programs
– consultation with industry on scope for a coordinated queen evaluation program to extend the work conducted by AQBBA to include more traits, inlcuding recommendations for the collection and management of queen bee breeding data for use in science-based breeding programs
– if importation of semen is permitted, the project should genotype such semen to allow inclusion of new stock into the relationship map of the population.
The outcomes will be more effective breeding programs for production and hive health.


Honey Bee

Research Organisation

University of New England

Objective Summary

Implementing genetic evaluation:
1. Collect more data on production and health traits from the Horner family breeding program, and if possible, from queen breeders across Australia.
2. Genotype queens, and funds permitting samples of drones and workers, from the Horners’ program, to build a genetic relationship map across their entire program.
3. Using pedigree data and genotypes, analyse the full population in that program, and subject to availability of data, other programs.
This work will deliver a comprehensive genetic evaluation of all traits being collected by the Horners and potentially other breeders, and include all breeding lines recorded. The result will be a complete list of queens evaluated, showing estimated breeding values for each trait.
Extension and education:
4. Contribute to the development of educational material on queen bee breeding, to be developed by NSW DPI. The contributions will include basic material on recording and selection, and on managing inbreeding.
This work will deliver written and video learning material, including demonstrations of breeding program design tools.
Establishing a platform for ongoing genetic evaluation:
5. Genotype imported semen to allow inclusion of the new genetic sources to be properly evaluated in future through inclusion of source pedigree information.
6. Consult with industry and researchers on scope for an expanded queen evaluation program aimed at systematic evaluation of production and health traits under more environments than is conducted at present, including a benefit-cost analysis.
This work will aim to deliver a network of industry and research personnel maintaining an ongoing evaluation process.