Investigating colony-level health traits in Canada’s honey bee population
Renata Soares Borba, Robert Currie , Nicolas Derome , Pierre Giovenazzo , Marta Guarna , Shelley Hoover , Amro Zayed , Leonard J. Foster , Stephen F. Pernal , Renata Soares Borba
Agriculture Agri-Food Canada & University of British Columbia, Canada; University of Manitoba, Canada ; University of Laval, Canada ; University of Laval, Canada ; Agriculture Agri-Food Canada, Canada ; Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Canada ; York University, Canada ; University of British Columbia, Canada ; Agriculture Agri-Food Canada, Canada ; Agriculture Agri-Food Canada & University of British Columbia, Canada
Overwintering mortality of honey bee colonies in Canada has been continuously greater than the acceptable range of 0% to 15% since the winter of 2006/2007. The main causes of colony death, as reported by Canadian beekeepers, include high pathogen/parasite infestation levels, poor quality queens and severe weather conditions. Every year, Canadian beekeepers import hundreds of thousands of queens, mainly from the U.S.A. and New Zealand. The importation of foreign queens has the potential to introduce undesirable pathogens or genetics and supply bees that have not been selected to survive in northern temperate climates. The two main goals of our project is to: 1) develop genomic and proteomic markers for 12 economically-valuable traits, which will enable local queen producers to rapidly select and breed healthy and productive colonies that are well adapted to the Canadian climate; and 2) study the variation of each trait among colonies located in different landscapes and climates in Canada, as well as the correlation between phenotypes. In 2016, 1025 colonies across Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec) were sampled and phenotypic data was collected. The identification of bio-markers for each trait, and the variation of each trait among colonies located in different landscapes and climates in Canada, as well as the correlation between phenotypes comprised the first step of this novel research. In the summer of 2017, 496 colonies were sampled and putative markers were validated against a test population, with the end goal of having this technology transferred to end-users, such as the National Bee Diagnostic Centre, where it will be made available to beekeepers. This is the first large-scale study for marker assisted selection in honey bees using integrated genomics and proteomics tools. Our innovative research will promote a healthier honey bee population and support the sustainability of the Canadian beekeeping industry.