Altea, December 2014. After transferring the VSH-selected Single Drone Inseminated queens to Altea in Spain, we started to raise daughter queens from them.
However, several challenges had to be overcome during the first couple of weeks. After an electricity outage (UPS was already ordered but still on its way…) we lost half of the queen-cells in the incubator.
After re-drafting and creating the first set of colonies we realized we had another unexpected enemy: very small, but very aggressive ants (!). These small ants attacked the small colonies – they attacked the young bees, killed them, and used them for food. In some cases we could still locate a few of the older bees with the queen, escaped from the hive. So we installed specially designed ant-stops (see photo), which are filled with oil to prevent the ants reaching the small hives.
Fortunately the weather was good and we could continue breeding young queens. We now have 25 queens with brood. These colonies will be used to supply drones in the 2015 VSH breeding program.
Braine-le-Château, August 2014. We have finished the Varroa-brood-counting. In total more than 20 colonies were identified with high levels of Varroa resistance !!!
These colonies had levels equal to or higher than 75% Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) behavior. Half of the colonies are from European honeybee lines and half of the colonies have a mainly US origin (USDA, with proven VSH background). The colonies with 75% VSH had significantly lower (reproducing) mite levels, the 100% VSH colonies had removed almost all of the mites!
A press release will be available after review of the data by the Scientific Committee and securing offspring of these valuable queens. As the weather in Northern Europe might not be good enough to breed viable daughter-queens, colonies will also be transported to Spain.
Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemberug, April 2014. In the Breeding, Selection & Distribution Project we will use Single Drone Inseminations (SDI) and brood Varroa counting to search for Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) behavior; the behavior were the bees remove brood that is infected by Varroa mites.
Several groups (representing the different races/lines) will be formed in the coming 2 years. For the Buckfast part of the project the following group of has been formed: Riad Abara, José Artus, Pascal Boyard, BartJan Fernhout, Didier Geuten, Jos Guth, Paul Jungels, Jean-Marie Lavend’Homme, Renaud Lavend’Homme, Pierre Marin, Philippe Lambert, Bernard Leclercq, Julien Perrin, Jean-marie Van Dyck.
Julien Perrin and Pascal Boyard (see photo’s) started early April with the first Single Drone Inseminations, establishing the real start of the project. In the coming months the group will strive to create between 100 and 200 single-drone colonies.
Baton Rouge (USA), March 2014. To understand the background of VSH and the techniques for selection, the USDA in Baton Rouge was visited for the second time, this time by Renaud Lavend’Homme and BartJan Fernhout (the first time in 2013 by Ralph Büchler and BartJan Fernhout).
Tom Rinderer, Bob Danka and colleagues shared their knowledge on Varroa Resistance, their VSH program, characteristics of the VSH colonies, Single Drone Insemination, characteristics of Single-Drone colonies and the Genetic Marker development. During this visit, also John Harbo (retired from USDA), the scientist who started the (USDA-) VSH project, also shared his knowledge on the selection of VSH honeybees. Both the USDA as well as John Harbo will continue their support.
Boxmeer, December 2, 2013. The Board members Marcus Gravendyck (Vice-Chairman), Rolf Wildeman (Treasurer), Danny Goovaerts (Secretary) and BartJan Fernhout (Chairman) sign the official papers to establish the Arista Bee Research foundation.