Scientists at the Laboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects (LASI) at the University of Sussex have set-up a research spin off business, LASI Queen Bees, to provide UK beekeepers with disease-resistant “hygienic” honey bee queens for their hives.
For the past 10 years LASI has been breeding bees and studying hygienic behaviour, a natural, but uncommon behaviour in which worker bees uncap and remove dead or diseased brood (larvae and pupae) from capped cells.
The LASI team has bred bees by testing large numbers of hives to find those which remove dead brood the fastest. From these hives they have bred daughter queens.
Hygienic hives are resistant to four of the most important pests and diseases affecting honey bees including varroa and deformed wing virus. LASI research has shown that hygienic hives have less than half the annual build-up of varroa mites and levels of deformed wing virus that are 10,000 times lower. Research in the USA has also shown that hygienic hives are resistant to chalk brood and American foulbrood.
Professor Francis L. W. Ratnieks, of the Laboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects, said: “Our research shows that hygienic behaviour in honey bees can play an important role in improving bee colony health.
“We have received many requests over the years from beekeepers wanting hygienic queens and we are happy that we can now fulfill those requests.
“In addition to hygienic behaviour, we also select our bees not to be highly defensive. They still sting, but not excessively.”
LASI Queen Bees is supplying open mated and virgin queens bred from LASI stocks of hygienic bees and tested breeder queens. To place orders or for more information about hygienic behaviour, including the research which underpins the project, please visit www.lasiqueenbees.com