Project Scope Sperm & Egg Preservation (SpEP)
Project Target Establishment and improvement of Bee Sperm and Bee egg preservation methods.
Current Status , Assumptions and Proposed solution

– Problem definition

– Current solutions

– Expected future solutions, trends.

– Proposed solution

Selection has produced honey bees with valuable phenotypes and genotypes. Maintaining such bees can be challenging. There are be several reasons that one would like to store such material, as follows:

– There is not enough capacity to store all selected queens in live colonies.
– The storage of queens in colonies takes material and labor from other activities/projects.
– The material is needed after a prolonged time-period.
– The material is so valuable that it needs to be available for a long time (several years) without compromising it or running the risk of inbreeding.The cryopreservation of sperm is established in several species (human, cattle), but is difficult in other species (birds, insects, honey bees). Research has been done in the USA and Germany, but queens inseminated with cryopreserved sperm have relative short egg-laying periods with only part of the eggs developing into workers or queens. With progress made in the USA (Hopkins et all) and Germany (Wegener, Hohen Neuendorf, patented osmotic-freezing process, publication in preparation) in the recent years, insemination of queens with preserved sperm in breeding programs becomes more feasible.

The cryopreservation of bee eggs has been even more difficult – but at the same time potentially more rewarding as preserved eggs in combination with preserved semen (or semen produced from preserved eggs-grown to adult queens) could restore a preserved line within one generation. (With only frozen sperm, several, consecutive instrumental inseminations have to be performed (each with limited return) to re-establish a preserved line.)

Science & Technology

– Target Technology: available, required

– Approach, Methodology, Tools

It is proposed to further develop the osmotic cryo-sperm preservation technique of honey bee sperm of Hohen Neuendorf and to review any other leads from other animal species (Wageningen University).

Prior research has yielded few promising leads about preserving honey bee eggs. Some experiments with very low viability have been reported in China. Experience with cryopreservation of embryos of other insect species might indicate a first direction; a full literature review will be performed.

Project Evaluation

– Potential value

– Probability of success

For any animal breeding program, (cryo) preservation of sperm and embryos is of high value. For bee breeding it is of even higher importance given the relative short life of a queen bee (2-4 years maximum, compared to 10+ in for example cattle). Because the application is of high value, several institutes already have had projects on this subject. In most projects progress was made, but techniques have not yet revealed a solid, reliable procedure. So success will likely come in small steps and will need prolonged dedication and cooperation.
Project Planning & Resources

– Planning

– Resources & Partners

Extensive expertise in cryopreservation of large animal sperm is available in Wageningen UR. Most expertise on cryopreservation of bee sperm in Europe is currently present in Hohen Neuendorf. Ideally a PhD or post-doc project is funded – given the relative long and complex experiments needed for this project. Whether it is feasible to use MSc students (who typically can conduct projects for up to 9 months) needs to be investigated (planned for Q2-2014).