Research in Progress

2021 Current Research and Activities

Dan Borges, Kelsey Ducsharm, Glenys Robinson, Stephanie Otto

A. Breeding and Maintaining Pest and Disease Resistant Honey Bee Stocks:

1. Maintenance of the Hygienic Trait in Ontario Bee Stocks 

Hygienic behaviour is important for disease resistance within a colony. Colonies which rank in Group 1 (>80% of killed brood cells removed) and Group 2 (60-80% of killed brood cells removed) will be identified and recommended for use as breeders for the subsequent generation. 

2. Incorporation of Low Varroa Growth into Ontario Bee Stocks

Low Varroa Growth (LVG) can be used as an indication that bees possess one or more mechanisms of Varroa mite resistance. Breeding for this trait allows bees to better manage Varroa infestations. While many breeders have been targeting LVG in their own operations for many years, 2021 will be the first year that LVG is officially incorporated into the ORHBS breeding program.

3. Health Status of Colonies Tested in the Breeding Program 

At the time of hygienic behaviour testing, forager bees will be collected. Varroa and tracheal mite infestation levels will be determined and nosema spore levels analyzed as an indication of the health of the colonies. Monitoring the health of breeder colonies will ensure the quality of the bee stock produced in Ontario. 

4. Queen Fertility Testing (TTP)

Honey bee queens raised within established breeding programs can be analyzed for mating success by determining sperm counts and sperm viability within the spermatheca. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this service will not be offered to breeders in 2021.

B. Projects Aimed at Improving Honey Bee Colony Health:

1. Grooming Behaviour

Scientists agree that the mite Varroa destructor and one of the viruses it transmits, Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), are critical factors causing winter colony mortality. Winter hardy, mite and virus tolerant stock that is locally produced is an essential part component of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, and the most sustainable method of control of these losses. This project responds to this urgent need. Bees will be bred for reduced mite population growth in beekeepers’ operations during two seasons and the selected population will be evaluated for colony survival, health, mite levels, DWV levels and genes associated with resistance.

2. BeeCSI

There are many things that impact bee health: pests, pathogens, agrochemicals, malnutrition, etc. It can be difficult to identify the key cause of stress and/or death of a colony. This project aims to develop diagnostic tools that would identify key factors in the declining health of a colony based on stressor-specific markers found during lab analysis.  

3. Isolated Mating Yard
In 2015 TTP established an isolated mating yard in the Muskoka region of Ontario to provide isolated mating for Ontario bee breeders. The yard is stocked with selected and hygienic genetics and flooded with drones. This yard provides breeders the opportunity to mate queens outside of their home territory and diversify genetics. In 2021 TTP will maintain and facilitate the use of the yard in conjunction with Ontario queen breeders. 

C. Progressive Training and Information Program for Beekeepers:

Hands-on workshops will not be offered during the 2021 season due to ongoing concern surrounding COVID-19. Instead, TTP will focus on virtual learning: 

1. Apiology 101 at

  • Introductory Beekeeping: covering the basics of how to get started with bees
  • Integrated Pest Management: knowledge and skills necessary to keep bees healthy and alive

2. Beeyard Sessions

3. Presentations at Local Beekeeping Associations

  • LBAs across Ontario have adapted to COVID-19 restrictions by setting up virtual meetings
  • TTP has presentations on many topics prepared for these meetings
  • Contact if you would like to have TTP present at your meeting