Dr. Kaira Wagoner, a research scientist in UNCG’s Department of Biology, recently received an award from the University of Vermont to support the research project “Strengthening the quality and availability of locally adapted honey bee stock in Vermont.” This project is connected to a larger effort at the University of Vermont’s Vermont Bee Lab funded by the Vermont Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
Learn more about Dr. Wagoner’s research here.
Since 2006, Vermont beekeepers have lost an average of 33% of their honey bee colonies each winter and in 2018-2019, Vermont’s average annual colony losses ranked third highest across the nation (Bee Informed Colony Loss Survey). One mechanism whereby beekeepers can mitigate colony losses is through regional selective breeding programs that improve pest and pathogen resistance in stock that are well-adapted to local environments. However, in the northeast, there are very few bee breeders producing pest and pathogen resistant queens. As a result, beekeepers must rely on the use of harmful miticides and/or on imported bees that are not adapted to the local climate to control pests and diseases. To strengthen the quality and availability of locally adapted bee stock, we propose a collaborative initiative that brings together several bee breeding operations in Vermont with the expertise and resources of bee disease experts at the University of Vermont and University of North Carolina Greensboro. Our team will build upon existing breeding programs of Vermont beekeepers by incorporating the newly developed unhealthy brood odor (UBO) assay into existing stock selection methods, and monitoring the effects of selection for UBO response on colony level incidence of pests and disease. By utilizing this new tool to select locally for pest and disease resistant honey bee queens we will improve the quality and availability of bees adapted to northeastern winters, reducing beekeepers’ reliance on harmful miticides and imported bees, and improving honey bee colony health and survival.