News / Science & Technology

Artificial Insemination Could Breed Better Bee

Artificial Insemination Used to Breed a Better Beei
X
Rosanne Skirble
June 05, 2012
Honeybees are in trouble. Each year since 2006, one-third of their hives have been wiped out by a mysterious disease called Colony Collapse Disorder. While experts are not sure, they say poor hive management, overworked bees, pesticides or parasitic mites could be to blame. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble met a beekeeper who is breeding a queen bee that can help her hive withstand the assault.

Artificial Insemination Used to Breed a Better Bee

TEXT SIZE - +
Rosanne Skirble
Honeybees are in trouble. Each year since 2006, one-third of their hives have been wiped out by a mysterious disease called Colony Collapse Disorder.

While experts aren't certain, they believe poor hive management, overworked bees, pesticides or parasitic mites could be to blame.

A beekeeper in Frederick, Maryland, is working on breeding a queen bee that can help her hive withstand the assault.

Breeding a better bee

Adam Finkelstein manages to keep his small operation healthy. He keeps some 200 hives not far from Washington, D.C..

His bees spend the winter in hives which are naturally insulated with honey to keep them warm in the coolest months. This time of year, the bees have begun their daily sorties to collect nectar.
Beekeepers want to keep the parasitic varroa mite, the little brown spot seen on the bee, out of their hives. (BugMan50 Brad Smith, Creative Commons)Beekeepers want to keep the parasitic varroa mite, the little brown spot seen on the bee, out of their hives. (BugMan50 Brad Smith, Creative Commons)
x
Beekeepers want to keep the parasitic varroa mite, the little brown spot seen on the bee, out of their hives. (BugMan50 Brad Smith, Creative Commons)
Beekeepers want to keep the parasitic varroa mite, the little brown spot seen on the bee, out of their hives. (BugMan50 Brad Smith, Creative Commons)

Finkelstein has five bee yards at the core of his breeding program.  “We’re testing for yield, gentleness, the ability to get through the winter, the ability to build up in the spring, the ability to make honey and the ability to be thrifty and to keep alive during periods when there is no food.”

His major focus is on breeding a stronger queen resistant to the varroa mite, a parasite originally from Asia that carries viruses into the hive and has become a major problem for beekeepers in the U.S. and elsewhere. 

“Our bees handle this mite just fine and produce honey and can pollinate and can make more bees and that’s our goal and we’re getting there,” he says.

Artificial insemination

Finkelstein says breeding is a work in progress. He uses artificial insemination, which allows him to select desirable traits from both male and female. 

The procedure isn’t difficult, he says, but takes practice and patience. Working from his home laboratory, he first sedates the queen using carbon dioxide.
Beekeeper Adam Finkelstein articifially inseminates the virgin queen in his effort to breed a hardier bee. (VP Queen Bees/Adam Finkelstein)Beekeeper Adam Finkelstein articifially inseminates the virgin queen in his effort to breed a hardier bee. (VP Queen Bees/Adam Finkelstein)
x
Beekeeper Adam Finkelstein articifially inseminates the virgin queen in his effort to breed a hardier bee. (VP Queen Bees/Adam Finkelstein)
Beekeeper Adam Finkelstein articifially inseminates the virgin queen in his effort to breed a hardier bee. (VP Queen Bees/Adam Finkelstein)
 
“While she is anesthetized, we use a very small set of instruments to position a syringe and deliver a known quantity of semen," he says. "And that’s it. She’s mated.”

Pesticide-free operation

Finkelstein tests his queens in his many hives. Once he's evaluated their traits, he sells them, making room for new queens.

He maintains a pesticide-free operation, unlike most commercial producers who depend on chemical treatments to keep their bees healthy.

“However, eventually, if the treatments fail to work or if the level of toxicity in the wax in the beehives becomes so great and the queens are not fertile," he says, "then those folks will probably turn towards a hardier, more mite tolerant queen choice.”

Finkelstein happily says a few of those bigger operations have begun to collaborate with him, recognizing that the future of beekeeping may not be about the next best pesticide, but about queens bred to produce offspring that can resist pathogens.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Big D from: West Virginia
June 11, 2012 8:08 AM
This person from Oregon is misguided. Mr. Finkelstein is breeding and incorporating genetics from bees who have done well in the colder climates. He is using stock bees from Minnesota. You should read some of the blogging he posts in other forums about his work. Your tone is rude and judgmental and colony collapse is not because of the invasion of the Africanized bee.


by: Nabuquduriuzhur from: Oregon
June 05, 2012 3:28 PM
Why does it have to be something mysterious? Think that the native bees and non-commercial european bee hives in the north part of the country are doing well because of something unusual?
The reason for colony collapse is the invasion of the Africanized bee. It cannot handle temperatures of 32 or below for more than a few minutes.

By 2000, our entire southern tier states had the Africanized bee mixed with european bees. They exported these to others states. When there was a freeze, or when winter set in, the colonies died off. The weather has sharply cooled off since 2003 and the africanized bee does not do well in it.

Compare that with forest populations of european bees in our northern states. They are doing quite well. Our native pollinators are doing well, despite varroa and tracheal mites (which have been around for millennia). Its' possible to count 9 native bee types here in the northwest ranging from 1/8" long to 2" long, just by going out in a garden or flower garden for ten minutes. It's not like pesticides and other chemicals were not used like water here, just as every other place in the country.

So why not simply deal with the real reason for the commercial colony collapses, instead of the unscientific hysteria stuff?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid