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Ongoing project

Development and implementation of protocols to enable importation of improved honey bee genetics to Australia (MT18019)

Key research provider: CSIRO

What’s it all about?

This investment is laying the groundwork to allow the first importation of desirable honey bee germplasm into Australia, with a focus on sourcing genetic material from bees with a tolerance to Varroa mite and its associated viruses.

Import of and access to this material for breeding purposes will allow both the honey bee and horticulture industries to prepare for the threat of Varroa, by pre-emptively establishing Varroa-tolerant genetics in Australia’s honey bee population.

Specific project activities include…

  • Exploring and updating virus testing protocols for honey bee germplasm, to allow testing of imported material for biosecurity risks

  • Building capacity for receiving imported germplasm through the new Post-Entry Quarantine facility at Mickleham in Victoria

  • Establishing relationships with overseas honey bee breeding programs that are selecting for Varroa tolerance, and identifying suitable sources of Varroa-tolerant germplasm for importation (an element of which includes reviewing and recommending germplasm selection protocols).

The project team will also evaluate the first successfully imported and propagated Varroa-tolerant germplasm prior to its release to industry.

During the past six months, the project team, in partnership with Arista Bee Research (Netherlands), continued to make progress despite challenges related to COVID-19.

The team successfully imported bee semen with Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) genetics and inseminated domestic queens reared from hygienic colonies. Several Arista-semen queens are now being maintained and monitored and show good productivity, with daughter queens also being reared to further secure the imported genetics.

From this importation, the team demonstrated that virus testing can be carried out effectively to reduce the risk of unwanted viruses being introduced with imported bee semen. Updated virus testing protocols were developed, strengthening Australia’s virus testing capability to support future imports.

Since commencing the project in mid-2019, this project is progressing with the aim of safely achieving the first Australian importation of genetic material from bees with a tolerance to Varroa mite and its associated viruses.

Arista Bee Research (Netherlands) has been established as the project partner to provide queens and semen from Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) breeding stock. It will separately manage three VSH colonies from the organisation’s breeding program to meet the required specifications.

The project team have experienced some delays in obtaining importation permits and health certificates for the honey bee semen. Virus testing results for the drone semen has been completed by CSIRO, with additional independent testing to be undertaken by AgriBio. The current timelines expect importation for late July 2020.

Related levy funds
Details

This multi-industry project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Almond, Avocado and Melon Funds