A honeybee breeding research coalition
The people behind FutureBees are a diverse group with vastly different backgrounds. The one thing they all have in common is that they want to make a difference for the New Zealand beekeeping industry.
As an extensive five-year research project, FutureBees encompasses different areas of expertise, ranging from animal breeding and genetics to honeybee nutrition and other factors influencing queen larva development. As a result, the scientific partners involved in the project range from the University of Otago to Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) and private science providers.
Since New Zealand honeybees live and forage in very different environments, the FutureBees commercial beekeeping partners are spread throughout both islands of New Zealand to ensure that we get an understanding of how been colonies perform under diverse conditions.
Scientific Main Partners
FutureBees is led by Professor Peter Dearden from the University of Otago. His research group, the Laboratory for Evolution and Development provides both the bulk of the laboratory work necessary within the FutureBees programme and input from a range of academics working on the evolution and embryonic development of insects such as wasps and bees. Peter is passionate about doing research that has a practical application, and about communicatingscience to the public. You can watch Peter talk about his research here and here.
The translation of the scientific work within FutureBees falls to Dunedin-based AbacusBio Ltd, leading specialists in the field of livestock breeding and livestock genetic resource management. A private agricultural consulting company with extensive experience in livestock genetic improvement, AbacusBio employs both quantitative geneticists and practical on-farm consultants. Technical lead of the FutureBees project within AbacusBio is Dr Peter Fennessy, while the coordination of field work as well as the development of tools for the beekeeping industry falls to Gertje Petersen. Additional genetics and breeding consultants round out expertise ranging from systems for genetic evaluations to software development.
Additional Scientific Partners
Plant & Food Research, a CRI delivering science focused on research and development that adds value to fruit, vegetable, crop and food products, are working on pollination-focused trait development. Gisborne-based private diagnostics company dnature are focused on the definition of the (multi-) disease status of honeybee colonies, and CRI AgResearch are providing DNA sequencing services.
The main goal of FutureBees is the development and release of practical tools for the industry. This means that a key aspect of the work being done before 2022 is defining exactly what will be practically possible, both for queen breeders and commercial beekeeping operations. FutureBees built on existing relationships between scientific and industry partners and teamed up with a dedicated queen breeder as well as four commercial partners.
Betta Bees is an elite queen breeding company in Mosgiel. Originally founded by a group of Otago and Southland beekeepers that wanted to secure their queen supply when queen movements in New Zealand got restricted due to the arrival of the parasitic Varroa mite, Betta Bees now supplies breeder queens to beekeepers all over the country.
Our commercial beekeeping partners will be involved in developing protocols for the testing of improved queens under field conditions as well as the evaluation of elite queens. This will help verify assumptions our geneticists make about the heritability and value of certain characteristics of individual queens.
The Taylor Pass Honey Company Ltd in Blenheim has been involved with the precursor projects of FutureBees, giving invaluable insight into the needs and processes of a honey producer. Their past involvement makes them an especially valuable partner, because we have been able to cooperate on the establishment of systems for testing queen performance in the field that can be further refined before they are put in place in other operations, such as Tai Tokerau Honey Ltd and the Ngati Porou Miere coalition.
Midlands Apiaries will be working closely with Plant & Food to establish corresponding systems for the definition and monitoring of pollination-related bee characteristics.