University of California, Davis, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and Steve Sheppard, a professor and apiculturist at Pullman, Washington, are investigating several races of the Western or European honey bee (Apis mellifera), which European settlers brought to America in 1622.
There goal is to find bees that are more resistant to colony collapse disorder.
The research team has received semen from the Italian bee from Italy, the Carniolan bee from Germany; and the Caucasian bee from the Caucasus region of Eurasia.
The Italian bee is a honey-colored bee that's the most common honey bee in the United States. The Carniolan and the Caucasian bees are darker in color.
The semen from the three races will be used to inseminate queens that will be kept in a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved quarantine until determined safe to release, Cobey says.
"As well as enhancing genetic diversity, known to increase fitness in honey bees, we're hoping this will result in an increased level of resistance to the exotic and introduced pests and diseases of our honey bees," Cobey says.
At their request, Cobey will confer with officials on native bee races at the Bee Selection and Artificial Insemination Center at Camili of Artvin Province, Turkey. The Camili region of six villages is where apiculturists discovered pure Caucasian bees thought to be extinct. They then began queen bee breeding, selection work and artificial insemination. The center officials seek Cobey's impressions and advice in connection with their work.
A "bee safari" is also planned to look at the five native races of honey bees in Turkey.
America's beekeepers reported losing 36.1 percent of their bees during the past year, up from 32 percent the previous year. The survey, commissioned by the Apiary Inspectors of America, showed that the beekeepers attributed 29 percent of the recent loss to colony collapse disorder, in which bees mysteriously abandon their hives.
The declining bee population crisis is particularly troubling, Cobey says, because bees pollinate about one-third of the nation's food, including fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
For more information on the three races of bees, visit http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/news/cobeyturkeytrip.html.
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