Plan Bee – Australian honey bee genetic improvement program

queen bee

Mission statement

Plan Bee aims to foster a sustainable national genetic improvement program using innovative breeding technologies to transform the performance of honey bees in Australia. It will focus on traits of importance to beekeepers, and horticulture and broadacre industries dependent on honey bee pollination. The strength of this project lies in its ability to leverage benefits across multiple industries by creating a more profitable and sustainable beekeeping industry, improving crop pollination efficiency, and enabling industry expansion through enhanced pollination security.

What we will deliver

  • A research apiary at Tocal Agricultural College with 50 breeder queens and 200 production colonies tested under commercial beekeeping conditions
  • Standardised selection criteria that improve honey bee performance, decrease the cost and impact of disease, increases the amount of honey produced, and the value of hives as pollination units
  • A literature review of past and current bee breeding programs both in Australia and overseas to ensure that we implement best practice
  • Modelling of breeding structures to determine the optimal set-up for the program
  • Economic modelling and a business plan to ensure a sustainable program
  • A study of genetic diversity 
  • Undertake genetic analysis to establish pedigrees and genetic merit
  • An online database of estimated breeding values for selection traits
  • Increased value of honey bee colonies as pollination units through crop-specific knowledge of colony characteristics associated with pollination efficiency
  • Determine the needs of beekeepers and growers through surveys and workshops
  • Extension programs that increase the capacity and skills of queen bee producers, beekeepers, and pollination contractors
  • Survey of domestic queen sales to understand buyer and seller patterns and thus help to grow the market
  • A strategic plan for the distribution of queens from the program

Team

  • AgriFutures Australia – Paul Blackshaw and Annelies McGaw
  • NSW Department of Primary Industries – Elizabeth Frost and Alex Russell
  • Sydney University – Nadine Chapman and Benjamin Oldroyd
  • University of New England Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit – Robert Banks
  • Better Bees WA Inc – John Davies and Tiffane Bates
  • Wheen Bee Foundation – Fiona Chambers

Who supports us

Plan Bee is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as part of its Rural Research and Development for Profit program. The project is further supported by AgriFutures Australia, NSW Department of Primary Industries, University of Sydney, University of New England, Better Bees WA Inc, Wheen Bee Foundation, CostaGroup, Olam, Beechworth Honey, Monson’s Honey and Pollination, Auston, South Pacific Seeds, and commercial beekeepers. The program is funded February 2020 to June 2022.

Steering committee

A steering committee will meet twice a year to provide support, guidance and oversight to the projects, review the projects and output, and provide input of the dissemination of the learnings and results of the projects. The steering committee includes the project team, major investors, and industry representatives.

How we will communicate with you

  • Bi-monthly AgriFutures Australia newsletters
  • An AgriFutures Australia webpage
  • The eXtensionAUS Professional Beekeepers website, Facebook page, LinkedIn page, and Twitter account
  • Talks at industry conferences
  • Manuals, industry publications, and training courses 

Acknowledgements:

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