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Breeding for hygienic behaviour in honeybees (Apis mellifera) using free-mated nucleus colonies

Abstract

Gains in hygienic behaviour based on maternal selection of queens were evaluated among four commercial beekeeping operations in northern Alberta, Canada over four generations. While the proportion of breeding colonies expressing the trait increased with each subsequent generation, levels of hygienic behaviour among progeny remained relatively unchanged. Estimated breeding values for the final generation of progeny confirmed only a slight effect of selection; the expected average increase in the removal of frozen brood in the next generation was determined to be 0.17% at 24 h and 0.34% at 48 h. This modest increase may be explained by the low (24 h, h 2 = 0.17) to moderate (48 h, h 2 = 0.25) heritability of hygienic behaviour in our population. Our work implies that year-to-year comparisons of breeding colonies may not be an accurate predictor of selection gains within honeybee populations and that honey producers in this region may need to focus selection within elite breeding populations.

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Acknowledgements

Expert advice was kindly provided by Ernesto Guzmán-Novoa, Jeff Harris and Marla Spivak. Technical support was provided by Sterling Smith. We also thank Robert Albright, German Cucatto, Devon Coupland, Brendan and Andrew Dickson, Bill Farney, Julio Flores, Amanda Van Haga, Felis Jiménez, Christel Leonhardt, Ricardo Madge, Andres Mendez, Peter Mills, Erik Moller, Felix Valdez Pulodo, Marina and Ricardo Sanchez and Ryan Scorgie for helping conduct the many colony assessments. Marla Spivak graciously supplied the Minnesota benchmark, and along with Susan Cobey, conducted instrumental inseminations. We thank Gus Rouse for his donation of benchmark queens. Most importantly, we owe considerable thanks to the cooperating beekeepers who not only supplied colonies and breeding material, but who contributed considerable labour to the project: Rob Dickson, Denis McKenna, Mark Paradis, Peter Jessing, Fernando Sanchez, Mike Williams and Gilbert Wolfe. The project was supported financially by the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (Project #2002C030R), the Matching Investment Initiative of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Bee Research Fund, Bee Maid Honey, Medivet Pharmaceuticals and the Alberta Beekeepers’ Association.

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Correspondence to Stephen F. Pernal.

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Elevage d’abeilles ( Apis mellifera ) présentant un comportement hygiénique à partir de nuclei issus d’une reproduction naturelle.

Héritabilité / comportement hygiénique / corrélation génétique / résistance / loque américaine / Varroa destructor

Zucht auf Hygieneverhalten bei Honigbienen ( Apis mellifera ) mittels Begattungskästchen in freier Paarung

Heritabilität; Hygieneverhalten; genetische Korrelation; Widerstandsfähigkeit; Amerikanische Faulbrut; Varroa destructor

Manuscript editor: Marla Spivak

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Pernal, S.F., Sewalem, A. & Melathopoulos, A.P. Breeding for hygienic behaviour in honeybees (Apis mellifera) using free-mated nucleus colonies. Apidologie 43, 403–416 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13592-011-0105-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13592-011-0105-x

Keywords

  • heritability
  • hygienic behaviour
  • genetic correlation
  • resistance
  • American foulbrood disease
  • Varroa destructor