Over the past six and a half years we have developed a way to measure disease resistance in honey bees using a molecular diagnostic approach, similar to the tests done every day in hospital laboratories. We have then used this method to selectively breed bees that are, indeed, more resistant to disease. This is akin to the selective breeding humans have practiced for millennia on all our agricultural crops and livestock, only using modern tools. It is not genetically modifying bees. Now that we have shown this works under controlled conditions, this project will work with BC-based bee breeders to implement this approach to selective breeding in their own operations. The result will be bees that are more naturally resistant to diseases and pests, including the varroa mite, the most important cause of bee die-offs world-wide. This will ultimately help to make beekeeping in BC and Canada more profitable, provide more bees for critical pollination activities and generally reduce the use of chemicals in the hive.
Elise Abi Khalil
Canadian Honey Council
Biochemistry / Molecular biology
University of British Columbia
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