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Building a better bee
Date:10/21/2008

DAVIS, CALIF. A UC Davis researcher known for her honey bee line "New World Carniolans" has crossed her bees with their Old World counterparts to enhance their positive characteristics.

"The bees are very gentle, very hygienic and very productive, and hopefully will confer increased resistance to pests and disease," said UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey.

The Carniolan honey bee (Apis mellifera carnica) is a subspecies of the Western honey bee. The subspecies, which originated in Slovenia, is the second most popular among California beekeepers, after another Western honey bee subspecies, the Italian honey bee.

UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis said genetic research of honey bees is critical for the bee industry.

"Although we spend a considerable amount of time trying to find short-term fixes to our honey bee disease and pest control problems, in the long run, the genetic solution of resistant stocks will be a better solution," Mussen said.

Cobey said her research program focuses on identifying, selecting and enhancing honey bee traits that show increasing levels of resistance to pests and diseases. She developed her line of Carniolans, a dark race of honey bees, in the early 1980s by back-crossing bees collected from throughout the United States to create a more pure strain.

"Over time, it has proven very productive, winter hardy, well-tempered and more resistant to pests and disease," she said. "For many years I have wanted to work with pure Carnica. Now I can."

Cobey imported semen from Germany in 2006 and again this year to make additional crosses. She said genetic diversity is critical in maintaining colony fitness and resisting pests and diseases.

The bee species now known as the Western honey bee was initially brought from Europe to America in 1622 and to California in 1853. Mussen and Cobey attribute the bees' decline to multipl
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Contact: Kathy Keatley Garvey
kegarvey@ucdavis.edu
530-754-6894
University of California - Davis
Source:Eurekalert  

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