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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Baton Rouge, Louisiana » Honey Bee Lab » Research » Research Project #437823

Research Project: Using Genetics to Improve the Breeding and Health of Honey Bees

Location: Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research

Project Number: 6050-21000-016-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Mar 5, 2020
End Date: Mar 4, 2025

Objective:
Meaningful contributions towards enhancing the economic value of the nation’s commercially managed honey bee populations can be achieved through identifying, characterizing and breeding more robust bees. The proposed 5-year plan focuses on synergistic projects (Fig.1) that capitalize on genetic and breeding approaches with the following objectives: Objective 1: Identify and evaluate traits, strains and stocks for improved honey bee health. Sub-objective 1A: Understand the mechanisms of viral transmission and resistance or tolerance to reduce impacts of infection through selective breeding. Sub-objective 1B: Evaluate genotype-dependent nutrient efficiency in commercial honey bee stocks. Sub-objective 1C: Evaluate genotype-dependent nutritional stress resistance in commercial honey bee stocks. Sub-objective 1D: Characterize the impact of genetically based variation in vitellogenin -- the primary honey bee storage protein with roles in immune function, oxidative stress resistance and lifespan -- on colony and reproductive (queen and drone) health and productivity. Sub-objective 1E: Identify and characterize genetic and physiological mechanisms of pesticide resistance in honey bees. Objective 2: Characterize genetic, physiological and behavioral aspects of important traits, strains and stocks. Sub-objective 2A: Examine patterns of genetic diversity and loci under selection in United States honey bee breeding populations, with a focus on stocks exhibiting high VSH activity. Sub-objective 2B: Elucidate the interaction between individual and social immune defenses. Sub-objective 2C: Improve understanding of the biology of the VSH trait. Objective 3: Conduct traditional breeding or marker-assisted selection of honey bees. Sub-objective 3A: Ascertain the effect of inbreeding on genetic diversity across the honey bee genome to support breeding and maintaining health of breeding populations. Sub-objective 3B. Assess genetic diversity at the sex locus of commercial breeding populations of honey bee stocks developed by USDA, ARS HBBGPL. Sub-objective 3C: Determine the potential usefulness of a simple hygiene assay as a selection tool to predict VSH-based mite resistance in honey bee colonies. Objective 4: Develop management tools for improving honey bee health. Sub-objective 4A: Identify and characterize genetic differences in honey bee response to introduced dsRNA, and test for correlations with viral infection and resistance. Sub-objective 4B: Improve understanding of the flight activity of Russian honey bees during almond pollination. Sub-objective 4C: Evaluate the efficacy of a microalgae platform to improve honey bee colony performance and health. Sub-objective 4D: Determine the sublethal effects of fungicides on honey bee health. Sub-objective 4E: Assess sustainability of Varroa control methods.

Approach:
Objective 1: Identify and evaluate traits, strains and stocks for improved honey bee health. [NP305, Component 2, Problem Statements 2B and 2C] Sub-objective 1A: Understand the mechanisms of viral transmission and resistance or tolerance to reduce impacts of infection through selective breeding. Hypothesis 1A.i: Honey bee resistance to viruses varies with virus type and inoculation route in addition to genotype and life stage of the bees. (Led by M. Simone-Finstrom with K. Ihle)