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Wednesday, 23. September 2020


The evident genetic improvement of Arbeitsgemeinschaft Toleranzzucht (AGT) honey bee stock, regarding traits such as defensive behaviour, honey productivity and tolerance to Varroa mite, is a result of successfully developed and utilised breeding concept.

The central part of this more than decade long concept is the performance testing of the test colonies which is implemented following the detailed described manual (AGT Methodenhandbuch), frequent training of the involved breeders and central data evaluation. However, the concept was recognized and implemented dominantly in Germany and some neighbouring countries such as Austria and Switzerland and was casually practiced in other countries (Denmark, Norway, Italy etc.).

Since November 2015, we have a great chance to promote and extend this breeding concept on pan-European scale through a research project entitled “Sustainable Management of Resilient Bee populations”. This EU funded project, coordinated by the Bee institute from Hohen Neuendorf, shortly named SMARTBEES, is focused on development of solutions to prevent colony losses caused by the Varroa mite and viruses and to counteract the systematic replacement of many native European bees with only two specific subspecies which is observed over the last years. Great part of the project is devoted for establishment of breeding activities in honey bee populations where genetic improvement was mainly achieved by importation of queens from non-local origin, mainly from queens from globally promoted A. m. carnica and A. m. ligustica. That is why the diversity of the local populations such as A. m. mellifera, A. m. macedonica, A. m. cecropia, A. m. iberiensis and A. m. siciliana is endangered or the breeding initiatives for their genetic improvement are discouraged.

To overcome the current obstacles for conservation and improvement of the local populations in Europe, a process coordinated by the Bee institute from Kirchhain, SMARTBEES is implementing performance testing of the colonies for traits of main interest for local conditions and markets. However, most of the recommended methods for colony assessment were developed, improved or well used within the framework of the AGT breeding concept. Thus, the methods were adjusted to the local beekeeping practices and environmental conditions and of course to the local honey bee populations. Now, breeders around Europe benefit from the experience gained from AGT regarding the methods such as pin test, powdered sugar and natural mite fall which are mandatory during the testing period. In addition, colony development, swarming behaviour, defensive behaviour and calmness are assessed based on the recommendations from AGT Methodenhandbuch.

From another point of view, the AGT regional group approach is an excellent example for breeding management which will be utilized for diverse cultural and socio-economic conditions across European continent. To facilitate the regional and cross-border cooperation SMARTBEES initiate and support events where breeders from different regions will have a chance to learn about the breeding principles and the use of methods. In that sense, we are looking forward for the possibility for exchange of knowledge and experience between breeders from AGT and SMARTBEES.

Finally, we are sure that our pan-European initiative, extended from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and from the Balkans to the British Isles, will lead to transmission of the well-known practices and their adjustment for improvement of local honey bee populations across Europe. On such a way, we have a great chance to enhance the attractiveness of the local stock and ultimately to support the efforts for sustainable breeding of locally adapted honey bee populations.



Uzunov & Büchler                                                                                                                                              April 2015