BREEDING, GENETICS, STOCK IMPROVEMENT AND MANAGEMENT OF RUSSIAN HONEY BEES FOR MITE AND SMALL HIVE BEETLE CONTROL AND POLLINATION
Location: Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research
Title: Russian Honeybee Breeders Association Manual
Submitted to: Diagnosis of Honey Bee Diseases
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: December 11, 2008
Publication Date: December 12, 2008
Citation: Rinderer, T., DeGuzman, L., Bourgeois, A., Frake, A., Stelzer, J., Sylvester, A. 2008. Russian Honeybee Breeders Association Manual. Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research Unit, 55 pages.
The USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Laboratory has produced a stock of bees called “Russian Honey Bees”. This name recognizes the original source of the honey bee queens that were used to form the stock. Queen bees from Russia’s far-east, many of which had some resistance to varroa mites, were imported into the United States. In the United States, they were tested and selected until 18 elite lines of honey bees were established and organized into a closed breeding population. While each line has its own characteristics, every line has improved resistance to varroa, improved honey production and tracheal mite resistance. They also have traits in common that are considered characteristic of Russian honey bees: good overwintering ability, frugal use of honey stores, and explosive spring build-up when a consistent source of natural pollen becomes available.
The popularity of the stock is growing. Varroa resistance has been improved by the ARS selection program to the degree that many beekeepers no longer use standard chemical treatments to control mites. Some beekeepers continue to use a “softer” control such as thymol or formic acid vapors yearly or only every other year. Selection has also improved the honey production of Russian Honey Bees. They now usually produce more or as much honey as Italian colonies in side-by-side tests. They also continue to be resistant to tracheal mites.
Because of the qualities of the stock and a need to turn over full control of the stock to the industry, members of the Russian Honeybee Breeders Association (RHBA) have joined together with the purpose of maintaining and selectively breeding the 18 lines of honey bees that collectively are the “Russian honey bee stock”. This manual is intended to provide specific information that will guide members to correctly do the things they need to do to meet their responsibilities to the Association. The manual concentrates on the specific activities needed to selectively breed and maintain the integrity of the Russian stock.
Since members of the Association are required to be experienced beekeepers, this manual will not cover beekeeping or queen rearing. However, everyone can learn more about these subjects. Hence, discussions with other members about queen breeding techniques and other aspects of general beekeeping are able to help members reach new insights.
Other more general discussions about the workings of the Association will help encourage the development of a strong association. Members can help each other in a variety of ways for the overall betterment of the Association and its members. Members are encouraged to find ways that they can cooperate and meet their individual and collective goals.