Researchers hope to significantly boost national honey production by genetically testing honeybees, in a pilot study by the University of New England.
Using modern genetic techniques similar to those used in the livestock industries, the report estimates that the average hive production will increase by around 1kg a year in Australia.
The University of New England’s Director of Animal Genetics, Dr Rob Banks says if the industry adopts a genetic improvement program it could generate gains of up to $32-million over 25-years.
“If we just talk about productivity, all food production industries face what is called the price/ cost squeeze. Whatever cost it takes to look after the bees, rises faster than the price they get for the honey. If that is the case you need to be making bees more and more productive just to keep pace with inflation.”
Mr Banks says to improve the genetics of honeybees, breeders will be required to record the pedigree and performance of each hive.
“Data can then be analysed to estimate the genetic merit of the queens for the recorded traits.”
The aim of the research is to breed more productive and healthy bees to ensure honey bee-based enterprises thrive.
“Bee keepers get paid by the kilo. If they breed bees that are healthy they will be also less prone to diseases. Just like any organisms, disease could severely impact the bee industry so it is important and possible that we try to breed bees that suffer disease less, or not at all.”
The cost to implement a recording and training program would cost the industry about $750 000 a year.
The research is part of the Honey Bee and Pollination Program, a partnership between the University of New England, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (HIA) and the Australian Government.
To download a copy of the report or find out more about the Honey Bee and Pollination Program, visit www.rirdc.gov.au/honeybee-pollination.