A young beekeeper in a big project

My desire as a young beekeeper to enrol in the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food in Skopje was to upgrade my knowledge of beekeeping and agriculture in general. I met professor Aleksandar Uzunov at one of the lectures at the beginning of my studies. From his side, I was soon offered to participate in several projects, including the BeeConSel project. Participation in such a large project was something that I should not miss to achieve my goals. I was chosen as a target group by the project and thus participated in the implementation of activities in the field with several other students. The fieldwork allowed me to “dive in” more and more not only in the production of queen bees and the control of their mating but also in the improvement of my work with bees because I was always near two long-term experts, MSc Borche Pavlov and BSc Goran Aleksovski.

One of the significant moments for me in the project was when at the workshop in Osijek (November 2021) I was offered to present the results obtained so far from the research in Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia. I had stage fright, I must admit because my listeners were well-known experts in various fields around the world, but I still think I managed to capture the actual situation. After the long winter and setting up the research in several locations in Macedonia, I was offered to support the Jo Horner method, which was implemented for the first time in Norway. For me, the challenge of going to green Norway meant an opportunity to get to know the country’s culture, the way of living and experiencing the 24-hour day, which for people from my area of ​​residence is far from ordinary. I left in June. I was warmly welcomed there and got the chance to work with different subspecies of bees in the circle of the university apiary. Together with another possible future beekeeper, Camila, we conducted two trials for two weeks. With that, we contributed to getting some initial information about the natural mating of the queen bees there, as well as improving the Jo Horner method for the next season to make it possible.

In the meantime, I left for training in the instrumental insemination of queen bees in Krakow, Poland. I met the colleagues I had previously met during the project, who also participated in the training. The organizers of the training were great, and they had a lot of patience with us while we, unfortunately, had to destroy a million drones in order to get some practice in extracting the sperm. The thought that I will be among the first to introduce instrumental insemination in the practice of Macedonian beekeeping led me not to regret for a moment that, after 8 hours a day, I sat at the microscope and inseminated the queen. The best feeling was when I did it successfully. The course itself lasted a total of 32 hours, and during the breaks, at the apiary where the training was held, I tried to get as much information as possible from the organizers regarding their method of beekeeping, production of queens, honey since it was a big company which invests a lot of energy in improving beekeeping.

After completing the course, I returned to Norway to implement the second attempt that I mentioned earlier. It ended up being great, I wish it had lasted longer so we could get more information, but the weather didn’t allow it anymore. At the end of July, I returned to Macedonia and helped finish this season’s research by collecting the samples from the last locations. With the end of the season, I’m overjoyed to have been part of such a project and hopefully, when spring rolls around again next season, I’ll be lucky enough to be invited again. With that, I’ll have one more chance to supplement my knowledge in the area of queen bees and their mating, as well as beekeeping in general, and implement it in realising my business ideas.

Magdalena Jovanovska

The article was published in the October issue of the Regional Cooperation Magazine. You can read it HERE

Invitation to the Workshop on Breeding Values in Honey Bee Breeding Programs

Dear Queen Breeders,

you are cordially invited to the BeeConSel Breeding Value estimation Workshop in Skopje, Macedonia, from the 6th to the 9th of December 2022.

Workshop is organized by prof. dr. Sreten Andonov from Swedish Agricultural University with the local organization of prof. dr. Aleksandar Uzunov from Skopje. The workshop is dedicated to the key step in all breeding programs and the evaluation of genetic progress. Your costs of participation (transport and hotel) will be reimbursed.

The number of participants is limited. You can find the preliminary program HERE.

Apply by sending an email to beeconsel@kis.si by the 11th of November 2022.

Results of BeeConSel Macedonia presented in Mallorca

The results from the BeeConSel activities in Macedonia were presented at the workshop organized on the 5th and 6th of September in Mallorca, Spain.

At the training, there were 25 beekeepers and breeders from the Balearic Islands who are also involved in the implementation of the breeding program for genetic improvement and conservation of the local honey bee population.

BeeConSel consortium actively participated at the EurBee9

BeeConSel consortium actively participated in the European Conference on Apidology Eurbee 9, which was organised by the European Association for Bee Research in Belgrade, Serbia from the 20th to the 22nd of September 2022.

EurBee is the biggest scientific conference in the field of Apidology, occurring every two years, and attracting more than 300 scientists around the world. The conference intends to promote knowledge exchange and international cooperation and enables the further exchange of up-to-date scientific information on different aspects of managed and wild bees among researchers, teachers, students, and experts in extension.

The consortium presented 2 posters:

Evaluation of controlled mating in honey bees

Honey bee nuptial flights under various environmental conditions

 

The moment I realised being a drone is not that simple

This summer I got a chance to learn more about raising queen bees by instrumental insemination. It is my seventh year of owning an apiary and raising queens in Slovenia and as a target group member of the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia in the BeeConSel project, I was able to be a participant in the workshop on Instrumental Insemination of honey bee queens which took a place in Poland.

From Ljubljana to Krakow is almost 820 km and I went there by car with Jernej and Manca, amazing colleagues from the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia. Since I was not the driver, I could say It was a relaxing ten-hour drive, with the main topic of conversation being, you guessed it right, bees. We were accommodated at the hotel in Krakow from the 6th to the 10th of July. The training course was arranged in the mating station Pasieka Szeligow at Wielkie Drogi, near Krakow. It covered 32 hours of classes, including 15 hours of theory and 17 hours of practice. Every day during the workshop we were picked up in the morning and driven to the Wielkie. It was always a fun ride where we got to see the town and locals in the rush hour. I was also able to get to know, other participants a little better. It really felt like I was a part of a big international beekeeping family from Macedonia, Norway, Slovenia, and Croatia. Even though I am not a morning person I could say I was enjoying every bit of conversation about bees in the morning. The driver who was also employed in the apiary was getting to know us about Polish culture, the natural features of Poland and the problems which are facing beekeepers.

It was only the first day and my notebook was already 4 pages full. Each day of the course we started in the classroom with different discussions about bee breeding in Poland and Europe, we were getting to know the standard equipment necessary for artificial insemination, available options, and selection rules. When I look back at it there was a lot of information. Still, we had an amazing teacher Małgorzata Bieńkowska, a lady who knew how to wrap all those facts into simple instructions, so it was easier for us to use them later in practical work.

It was only the first day and my notebook was already 4 pages full. Each day of the course we started in the classroom with different discussions about bee breeding in Poland and Europe, we were getting to know the standard equipment necessary for artificial insemination, available options, and selection rules. When I look back at it there was a lot of information. Still, we had an amazing teacher Małgorzata Bieńkowska, a lady who knew how to wrap all those facts into simple instructions, so it was easier for us to use them later in practical work.

She was able to make you feel confident about the instrumental insemination like you know exactly what you are doing. After the theoretical part, of the course, we went to the apiary. There we got to know Monika; she reminded me of the queen bee of the apiary we were training at. Besides the great beekeeper she is, Monika also organised the workshop. During the queen rearing season (which lasts only 12 weeks), she takes care of 7 locations (queen breeding stations) and gives instructions/work to up to 16 employees. I got the chance to talk to a few of them and I must say they were one of the happiest hard-working people I ever met. I guess you could say they are happy with Monikas’ work and the pheromones she emits.

She was able to make you feel confident about the instrumental insemination like you know exactly what you are doing. After the theoretical part, of the course, we went to the apiary. There we got to know Monika; she reminded me of the queen bee of the apiary we were training at. Besides the great beekeeper she is, Monika also organised the workshop. During the queen rearing season (which lasts only 12 weeks), she takes care of 7 locations (queen breeding stations) and gives instructions/work to up to 16 employees. I got the chance to talk to a few of them and I must say they were one of the happiest hard-working people I ever met. I guess you could say they are happy with Monikas’ work and the pheromones she emits.

In the following days, we got to know the anatomy and physiology of queen bees and drones, factors influencing the quality of artificially inseminated queen bees and different techniques of insemination.

For an easier understanding of how difficult it is to successfully inseminate one queen bee; Małgorzata and Monika can take the semen from 7 to 10 drones, inject it into the queen and repeat the process with up to 100 queens in one day. This compared to my second day of instrumental work where I needed 132 drones to take the semen for one queen bee, on which I later inseminated only half of her ovaries. Long story short, it takes lots of time, patience, and practice to become a good inseminator. As if the process is not challenging enough, you also need to prepare the family to receive the queen bee. It is just fascinating how many factors affect the performance and later subsequent satisfaction of the beekeeper.

I do not know when the next time will be I will be able to hear so many different international phrases for the word “screwed up”. But I must say towards the end of the workshop we were getting better and better. I am really thankful that I was able to be a part of the Instrumental insemination workshop in Krakow. Not only that I learned so many new things which I will later use in my apiary, but I also got to meet people with so similar yet so different beekeeping lifestyles. It was a one-in-a-million experience that I will never forget.

Tadeja Vidmar

The article was published in the August issue of the Regional Cooperation Magazine. You can read it HERE

Young, green and promoting?

Dissemination of the project result is as important as getting results, but to many scientists (myself included) this does not come naturally. Of course, publishing scientific papers and having discussions within the scientific community is part of the regular job, yet transferring results to the target groups who often do not have “compatible” education or even an intrinsic motivation to use these results, is more difficult. On top of that, making a case with the general public and convincing them that what you are doing is worth the money, is both more difficult and even more important. I am aware that this might sound like a lament.

However, I should also stress that passing or disseminating results to young people is probably easier in the sense that there are fewer prejudices or lesser resistance to the novelties in young people in comparison with more experienced (and older) target groups. Not that disseminator doesn’t get challenged in the intellectual fashion or that whatever is said is also accepted at the face value; to my opinion, it is the fact that young are there to get educated or to receive the guidance of some kind, the greatest asset in the dissemination.

In general, we meet two kinds of young people in the frame of our project: the first kind are the students, still in the process of formal education and the second kind are those who have already completed their formal education and are looking forward to getting their beekeeping going. The first are expecting examples and are storing knowledge for potential use; the second ones are looking for specific knowledge to improve their skills and/or business.

The second kind are more important to our project in the short term. These young people are often well networked with their older, more experienced, and more rigid colleagues. We have planned our project dissemination in the way that we include future users in some of our planned operations – that is – hands-on experience. At the same time, young people in target groups are encouraged to talk to the experts in hope that besides the technique and observations they would also get a rationale for the actions.

So far, we are aware that participants of such events are discussing learned lessons among themselves, with older colleagues and with colleagues in other – partner countries included – countries. At this point we can only express satisfaction, we have a working method. Will this make their future behaviour “greener”? I do not know, but I sure do hope so.

Dr Janez Prešern

The article was published in the June issue of the Regional Cooperation Magazine. You can read it HERE

Invitation to the Workshop on Instrumental insemination in Krakow, Poland

Mating control is an essential part of any breeding program to ensure genetic progress and thus maintenance of local honey bee populations through utilization.

Instrumental insemination of honey bee queens is a method that allows strict control of paternity but is not widely used in BeeConSel (beeconsel.eu) project’s partner countries.

The Norwegian Beekeeping Association is organizing a workshop on instrumental insemination for queen bee breeders from the partner countries in Krakow from 7 to 9 July 2022. We invite you to apply. Applications are open until the 3rd of June.

If you are selected, the cost of your participation in the workshop will be covered by the BeeConSel consortium.

Apply by sending an email to beeconsel@kis.si with:

  • Letter of motivation
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Recommendation from a bee association, bee club or other institution

The applicants should:

  • manage at least 25 colonies
  • have access to queens and drones immediately after the course to hone their skills

During the project implementation the selected participants will be expected to:

  • Act as a trainer and pass her/his knowledge to other interested beekeepers.
  • Hone their skills in instrumental insemination after the course within this breeding season.
  • Act as a trainer in arrangement with local partners in Croatia, North Macedonia, Norway, and Slovenia
  • English language proficiency is required

The selection of candidates will be based on candidates’ motivation and CV. The selected candidates will be signing a contract for the execution of the training and the follow-up activities.


INVITATION (en)

VABILO (si)

Visit of expertise partner from Norway to Croatia

In the period of 12.5.-16.5.2022 Bjørn Dahle and Camillia Sundby from the Norwegian Beekeepers Association came to Croatia to visit the “deep forest” and flatland mating stations run by the Centre for applied life sciences Healthy food chain Ltd. for research and development (CALIS). With their experience in controlled mating of queen bees, during the implementation of the BeeConSel project, we aim to improve mating control in all tree beneficiary countries – Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia.

Our responsibility in honing young minds

One of the key activities of the researcher is sharing her or his peer-reviewed findings, in standard practice with the scientific community, which can use new facts to bring research to the next level. But this is only half of the story: at least as important is also passing the knowledge in non-scientific terms – I am trying to avoid the phrase »layman terms« – to other potential target groups. The latter is at least as important as the former as it brings about both societal progress and acceptance of science in the non-scientific part of society. In the last few years, we were frequently shocked by how little trust there is in scientific findings regarding COVID within society: one would like to lay blame on social media for publishing non-peer revied »facts«, but we the scientists also share guilt for locking away ourselves from the people. 

Occasionally, I have contact with students, lecturing about insect biology and beekeeping. It is then that fear that my best effort might not be enough and that the message might not get through creeps up on me. Let me explain: besides fractographic knowledge, which can be obtained by a student from many – often unverified – sources, the teacher’s duty is to teach students of analytical thinking and to evaluate data they have access to with a critical eye. This is now much more important than it was in my generation, which didn’t know google and general news sources usually had authors with names and reputations to go along. The educational system, however, seems to be stuck at some point in the past, still passing the facts in heaps but no method of what to do with them. Finally, responsibility for own actions seems to be nowhere to be found, neither in past nor in current curriculums. At most, it is mentioned in the light of criminal deeds. The environment is not mentioned here. 

Thinking green is a key direction for a decade. And similarly, COVID has its opponents as, trying to reduce its importance or talk down the consequences of living life »in the traditional way«. Like every buzzword also has leaches attached to it, making a business out of it, and reducing its value to monetary terms only. The students I am talking with are not stupid or ignorant but somehow guideless in this manner and thus easy prey.  

Often, looking at honey bee colonies together with students we are talking about how the demands, expectations and technology have changed beekeeping in the last 20 years. Science has even coined the phrase “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD), a phrase known to many even outside the sector. But now it is clear that CCD and other pests and pathogens that arrived recently are emerging as the consequence of irresponsible human behaviour, such as global trade chains, trying to increase profit by changing local species for another and forgetting that evolution took millions of years to adapt hosts to pests and vice-versa and that simply mending the leaky cauldron will give us not new but a patched pot. In BeeConSel we are dedicated conserve the local genetic pools. This knowledge and the awareness that homegrown is something worth having in the apiary is something we on the BeeConSel team try to pass on to students who will be future apiarists, but also future government administrators, issuing permits, sanctioning subsidies, etc. Even those, who stay outside the beekeeping or related apiculture sector count in the debate or steering the community. 

Dr Janez Prešern 

The article was published in the April issue of the Regional Cooperation Magazine. You can read it HERE

New genomic information that will support the conservation of A. m. carnica

In a recent study The Carniolan Honeybee from Slovenia – A Complete and Annotated Mitochondrial Genome with Comparisons to Closely Related Apis mellifera Subspecies, supported also by the EEA and Norway Grants, researchers sequenced and annotated the mitochondrial genome of a specimen of A. m. carnica from Slovenia and compared the obtained data with a previously published sample of the A. m. carnica from Austria and the closely related Italian honeybee A. m. ligustica.

The results of this study represent a valuable addition to the information available for phylogenomic studies of the honeybee. They may reflect historical dispersal and isolation, as well as conservation and protection measures for the management of this indigenous honeybee subspecies in Slovenia. Additionally, the findings are essential for the local subspecies’ conservation and preservation and form the basis for investigations into the molecular mechanisms underlying important phenotypic traits of A. mellifera— a pollinator species of worldwide importance.

Read it HERE.

BeeConSel appierd on the macedonian agricultural TV show

BeeConSel was presented on Brazdi, an agricultural show on Macedonian Channel 5 television. Prof. Dr Aleksandar Uzunov, coordinator of BeeConSel in N. Macedonia, Assoc. Dr Janez Prešern, project coordinator, and Magdalena Jovanovska a student at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food in Skopje and our target group member talked about the goals, activities and expected results of the implementation of the BeeConSel project.

Information Day at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food in Skopje

On March 16, 2022, an Information Day was held at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food in Skopje, to introduce the activities of BeeConSel in Macedonia to more than 60 participants. Through five presentations the participants in this event were introduced to the idea, goals and activities of the project, as well as the results of previous research. Dr Janez Prešern, the project coordinator, who was also a guest, referred to the need to implement this international project in Slovenia, Croatia, Norway, Sweden, and Macedonia.

The Macedonian project team presented the activities, results and experiences from the research conducted in Macedonia in 2021. In the end, the attendees had the opportunity to ask questions that enabled further discussion.

Representatives of beekeeping associations were invited to the event, as well as representatives of several institutions and organizations relevant to the selection of honey bees. Unfortunately, due to preventive measures for protection against Covid-19, the number of participants was limited. Thanks to everyone who participated in this event.

Cooperation, Displacement, and Diversity

In December, I joined one of the sessions at the Regional Funds Week 2021 (Inclusive solutions to common challenges, Fund for Regional Cooperation roundtable). Though topic-wise far from my expertise or expertise of my colleagues within the BeeConSel consortium, I was deeply impressed by the diversity of thematic covered by the Fund mechanism. The keywords that stayed recorded in my brain were cooperation, displacement, and diversity. The latter two have perhaps different meanings (or let’s say dimension) in biology, but word cooperation doesn’t.  

The year 2021 was the first serious test for our project. The project itself focuses on bees and is thus heavily dependent on weather conditions and on personal contacts between beekeepers and experts. Faced with the changing and unpredictable epidemic situation we realized that we might be in trouble – the planned transfer of knowledge by the donor country partner, the Norwegian Beekeepers’ Association was seriously endangered. Yet the praise goes to our colleague Bjørn Dahle of NBA who worked diligently to transfer the planned events to another country and the mode of communication to hybrid and thus made sure that we were ready for the season. The cooperation runs smoothly also between other partners in the consortium allowing us to do what we planned: addressing the needs to upkeep the diversity of honey bee populations and prevent their displacement by imported or commercial breeds. 

The winter is analysis season: we are checking our results, talking to our target groups and evaluating the progress. At the same time, our teams are getting ready for a new season which will start in about three months. 

Dr Janez Prešern

 

The article was published in the December 2021 issue of the Regional Cooperation Magazine. You can read it HERE

Insights of the BeeConsel Target groups

A big part of the BeeConSel project is involving our target groups. In this short video Filip (Student at the Faculty of Agrobiotechnical sciences Osijek, HR), Jernej (PhD student at the University of Ljubljana, SI), Magdalena (Student at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food in Skopje, MK) and Laura (PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, UK) share what is it like to participate in the project.

Mating control of Honey Bees in BeeConSel

Why mating control of Honey Bees is important and what partners of the BeeConSel project have done so far? Dr Janez Prešern, project coordinator, explains it in a short video.

BeeConSel Biannual meeting in Osijek

Between November 8 and 12 partners met in Osijek, Croatia, on the Biannual meeting. This was a hard-awaited opportunity for us to meet in full line-up in person again.

We began our meeting with a discussion of our progress and a review of our next steps. After some serious management talks and communication planning on the 2nd day, our host had a nice surprise for us. We visited the Vučedol culture museum in Vukovar which is the only museum in the world dedicated to just one culture. The 3rd day of our biannual meeting in Osijek was dedicated to a discussion of our progress and future steps with the members of the Advisory Group and Target Group members. We must thank Dr Peter Kozmus, Dr Ralph Büchler, Dr Jakob Wegener, Brane Kozinc, students and other dear guests for their time, valuable suggestions, comments and hints.

Thank you, Centre for applied life sciences Healthy food chain Ltd. for research and development for hosting the meeting, excellent organisation and for making us feel at home in Osijek. And last but not least we must thank the whole team for the good work and good spirits. We definitely are moving forward!

Beekeeping economics in light of Climate change

On average, we humans are critters of habit. It is relatively difficult for an average person to get out of the well-trodden ways and adopt new approaches to something that she or he was dealing with for some time in the past. This is also true for the beekeepers. The economy of beekeeping operations is brutal. The production price of honey depends on kilograms of harvested honey, which means that varies hugely between seasons.

In recent years, the honey harvest – which is still the most important source of beekeepers’ income in Central Europe, became unpredictable – even unreliable. Frequent spring frosts decimate the early forages like oilseed rape, acacia, and even later sources, like linden or maple. Spans of »unnatural« periods with warm and sunny weather in January and February prompt honeybees to start big and develop brood using their food reserves just to be clenched two weeks later when the temperatures turn to subzero. After a few days of such temperatures, honeybees abandon brood, but the colony often starves to death due to the consumption of reserve food just before the beginning of the real season. Such changes prompt additional attention, work, and costs from the beekeeper; things need to be done that were not required in the past according to the memory of the oldest living beekeeper. Take for example season 2021: in Slovenia, we had to feed colonies in months that previously never required longer spans of feeding: May and June. Beekeepers simply must be ready and adopt new tactics and, of course, costs.

From what I have written above one could assume that the quality of forage is dependent entirely on external conditions, e.g. blooming plants, insects that produce honey dew etc. … and that abundance of it could at least partially salvage the beekeepers’ season. But it is not so simple. The efficiency of collecting available resources is determined also by the strength of the colony, which is again regulated by the in-flow of food and the potency of the queen bee. Poor early forages may slow down colony development to fall behind the normal strength in periods when forage is abundant. Again, an example is the year 2021: when linden and chestnut flowers were in abundance, there was a lack of workforce in many of the colonies. Consequently, the honey yield per colony was lower than it could be.

As I mentioned above, the queen bee is also an important factor in keeping the colony strong. In the contrast with farm animals (note that honeybees aren’t domesticated!), the queen bee is the only vector of genetic material in the colony: mating only in the early days of her life carrying male’s genes with her in specialized organ until her demise and replacement. If the mating partners did not provide suitable genes allowing survival of the colony, there is no error correction possible. Best possible queens are therefore required, bred, and selected in the local environment, not imported from other regions selected on another set of conditions. An important moto in beekeeping is therefore to think locally, act locally. Except for knowledge, how to get there, naturally. The best possible knowledge is required to get the best possible queens. Within our project “Joint Effort for Honey Bee Selection and Conservation” we have decided to provide means for the queen breeders to achieve their desired – or by environmental changes required – goals. Through the popularization of local subspecies, we wish to reduce the burden imposed on beekeepers by climate changes.

Dr Janez Prešern

 

The article was published in the October 2021 issue of the Regional Cooperation Magazine. You can read it HERE

BeeConSel at the Croatian queen breeder’s association annual meeting

At the invitation of the president of the Croatian Queen breeders Association, Zdenko Crnković, the BeeConSel project was presented at the breeders annual meeting last week.

Assist. prof. Marin Kovačić from Centre for applied life sciences Healthy food chain Ltd. for research and development presented the survey results (WP1) which clearly show the necessity of mating control within any kind of breeding program. The project coordinator Assist prof. Janez Prešern presented the role of the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia within the Slovenian Breeding program and possible places where the BeeConSel findings should be integrated into the programs current and future implementations.

Among the addressed, was also the president of the Croatian beekeepers federation, Željko Vrbos, and representatives of the Croatian Agency for Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Agriculture.

BeeConSel at the RNSBB Conference

Project manager, dr Janez Prešern from the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia, presented the latest results of our project at the RNSBB conference last week. Research Network for Sustainable Bee Breeding is a taskforce within COLOSS that unites experienced scientists working in the field of honey bee breeding and conservation, and we were honoured to present our work at the event.

The importance of bees

Bees play a vital role in preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity in nature. They provide one of the most important ecosystem services, i.e., pollination. By doing so, they protect and maintain ecosystems as well as animal and plant species and contribute to genetic and biotic diversity. But severe changes in their natural environment due to monocultures, use of chemicals, climate change, urbanisation pollution etc., are not making it easy for them…

This pressure exhibits itself in the form of lower disease tolerance, altered behaviour and colony loss, affecting both beekeepers and reducing the bee’s effectiveness as pollinators. To tackle this problem beekeepers are a) using more and more chemicals because of lower disease tolerance b) trying to compensate for colony losses by introducing new ones, often with non-native queens from suppliers outside their regions, which in the end is not doing the trick. Uncontrolled hybridisation of local and introduced subspecies is causing genetic erosion of the local subspecies which have higher survival ability than introduced subspecies in the same environment. So, b) eventually also brings us back to a).

The reduction of the above-mentioned effects can be achieved by establishing efficient mating control. Mating control is important because conservation and selection as an alternative to chemical control of parasites like Varroa destructor, improving the parameters which ensure higher survival rate of the local honey bees, improving their viability, and ultimately adding value to their ecosystem services.

In Europe, 9.2% of bees are threatened with extinction and its high time we step up our game and try to compensate for our past and present activities, assisting in the protection of threatened (sub)species, improved management of local subspecies and improved ecosystem services, such as pollination by honey bees. BeeConSel is taking action through the foreseen outputs which will determine suitable tools to perform the selection needed for both conservation and well-being of local honey bee subspecies to achieve the reduction of effects, such as decreased use of chemicals in long-term and decreased loss of genetic diversity through parasitic diseases.

 

The article was published in the June 2021 issue of the Regional Cooperation Magazine. You can read it HERE

Our project on the evening news of the Croatian RTL television

Dr Marin Kovačić from CALIS had the chance to present his work on the selection of honey bees and the field test in Gorski kotar within our project on the evening news of the Croatian RTL television.


You can see the whole broadcast dedicated to the current situation of bees in Croatia HERE

Highlights from the Workshop and Consortium meeting in North Macedonia

From 15th to 29th of May 2021 the Macedonian team of the BeeConSel project (Company for Applied Research and Permanent Education in Agriculture) in cooperation with the Norwegian project partner (Norwegian Beekeeping Association), successfully conducted the first in-person workshops and consortium meeting in North Macedonia.

The workshop programme covered aspects such as training of students and project members on observation of honey bees’ nuptial flights, demonstration on sampling procedure for molecular analysis, spermatheca evisceration, identification of Drone Congregation Areas (DCA) by use of pheromone traps and drone vehicles, then discussion on the methodology for economic valuation of the proposed methods as well other related topics.

The event is the first stepping stone towards assessing the potential for introducing mating control in the project beneficiary countries (Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia).

BeeConSel Consortium meeting & Training Workshop in North Macedonia

The BeeConSel team will at last meet in person again! The situation has finally improved, which allows that the Training workshop in North Macedonia will be organised fully in person and the accompanied Consortium meeting will be in a hybrid form.

The event scheduled from 26. till 29. of May will be organised by Company for Applied Research and Permanent Education in Agriculture (CARPEA) and Norwegian Beekeepers Association (NBA).

The workshop participants; partners and representatives of different target groups will have a chance to take part in two interesting field demonstration of the Protocol for observation of mating flights and a study tour with a demonstration of methodology for identification of the potential mating station location.

The whole program is available HERE.

Mating control is the biggest challenge for most of the honey bee breeding programs

At the beginning of April, a serial of online events marked the finalization of the EU initiated EURBEST study entitled “RESTRUCTURING OF THE HONEY BEE CHAIN AND VARROA RESISTANCE BREEDING & SELECTION PROGRAMME” (www.eurbest.eu). The project started in 2018 and now it is recognized as the biggest ever study on honey bees where the main focus was the assessment of the availability of Varroa resistant stock and the impact on European apiculture. The project was executed in 7 European countries where more than 150 beekeepers and breeders had a chance to evaluate more than 20 pre-selected genetic lines and compare them to the locally used commercial stock. The results show that Varroa resistant stock is available and valuable for use even under commercial beekeeping operations, but with regard to the importance of the local adaptation. However, during the interactive online WS and Closing conference, besides the lively discussion and presentation of the main findings, the participants (dominantly beekeepers and breeders from more than 30 countries) through surveys were asked to identify the main challenges for proper implementation of the breeding programs and queen production. In both polls (screenshots), mating control was highlighted as one of the most challenging aspects of the breeding activities, and that also require special attention.

With such outcome and interest in honey bee mating control, it is evident that the main idea behind the BeeConSel project (www.beeconsel.eu) currently is in the central attention. Thus, with support from our project, we have a unique chance to work directly on improving the most challenging breeding aspect in Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia as well as in a broader sense in Europe. It is interesting to point out that our colleagues Dr Uzunov, Dr Andonov and Dr Kovacic, are core experts involved in both complementary projects, BeeConSel and EURBEST.

BeeConSel is looking forward to reach over the consortium boundaries

Proper mating control is the best prerequisite to limit genetic erosion and increase the efficiency of breeding programmes in the selection of desired traits. Breeding organizations all over Europe are cordially invited to speak up and contribute to the survey to determine the state-of-the-art of mating control. Your efforts will be much appreciated, outcomes will be applied to further work and will hopefully have a positive impact on bee breeding.

Do not hesitate to contact dr Marin Kovačić (marin.kovacic@fazos.hr) for further information and feedback.

BeeConSel at the COLOSS SBB e-Workshop 2021

Yesterday we attended the traditional Research Network of Sustainable Bee Breeding spring (RNSBB) workshop, organised by the COLOSS ASSOCIATION.

Dr. Marin Kovačić, from our project partner Centre for Applied Life Science Healthy Food Chain (CALS), participated in the workshop with a presentation of a Survey developed within the WP1 – Assessment of current status. With the desire to achieve project reach outside the consortium borders, Dr Kovačić invited attendees to contact him regarding the possible participation in the Survey.

Italian Honeybee Breeders got the chance to learn about the BeeConSel

On Friday the 5th of March, Dr Janez Prešern attended an online event organised by the National Register of Italian Honey Bee Breeders, CREA-AA – Council for Agricultural Research and Economics. At the event for the Italian bee breeders, dr Prešern presented the  Slovenian National Bee Breeding Program and placement of the BeeConSel project within its frame. The presentation concluded with a lively debate on various details of selection, rearing and mating control in the follow-up discussion.

 

JClub – discussing honeybee mating, selection and other related topics

To discuss honeybee mating, selection and other related topics within the scientific community, the BeeConSel organizes regular Journal Club – JClub meetings with students and researchers from our team and beyond.

By now, we have discussed the following topics:

4.2.2021

Chapman NC, Lim J, Oldroyd BP. Population genetics of commercial and feral honey bees in Western Australia. J Econ Entomol. 2008; 101(2):272-7.

14.1.2021

Plate M, Bernstein R, Hoppe A, Bienefeld K. Long-Term Evaluation of Breeding Scheme Alternatives for Endangered Honeybee Subspecies. Insects. 2020; 11(7):404.

7.1.2021

Tihelka E., Cai C., Pisani D. et al. Mitochondrial genomes illuminate the evolutionary history of the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera). Sci Rep. 2020; 10:14515

24.11.2020

Loper G, Wolf W, Taylor O. Honey Bee Drone Flyways and Congregation Areas: Radar Observations. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society. 1992; 65(3):223–230.

17.11.2020

Pechhacker H. Physiography influences honeybee queen’s choice of mating place (Apis mellifera carnica Pollmann). Apidologie. 1994; 25(2):239–248

a

If you are a student or a researcher interested in honeybee mating/selection and would like to join our JClub, contact us at beeconsel@kis.si. We are always happy to welcome new faces and points of view.

Non-Destructive Genotyping of Honeybee Queens to Support Selection and Breeding

A new approach towards the non-invasive sampling of honey bee queens! Steppingstone for genomic selection, conservation and disease prevention.

a
Researchers from Agricultural Institut of Slovenia, our Lead partner, have investigated the possibility of using two non-destructive sources to obtain genetic information from an individual queen: faeces and exuviae.
a
Both sources turned out to be acceptable in terms of quality of DNA and usefulness in genotyping. In practical use, any of the two could be used to shorten generation interval in queen breeding and decrease costs of the selection process.
a
The results demonstrate that the extraction of DNA from faeces and exuviae can be introduced into practice. The advantage of these two sources over wingtips is reducing the time window for processing the samples, thus enabling genotyping directly after the queen’s emergence.
a
a
Read the whole article here.
a
a
The research was co-funded by the EEA and Norway Grants within the BeeConSel project. 

The relevance of mating stations for selective breeding of honey bees

We were very honoured to host Dr Ralph Büchler, Landesbetrieb Landwirtschaft Hessen, Bieneninstitut Kirchhain, Germany, on our Kick-off meeting held on 4th of December, 2020.

His lecture The relevance of mating stations for selective breeding of honey bees really highlighted the broader impact of project goals and sparked a lot of interest among the participants, that is why we would like to share the video of his lecture with all of you.

The video is avaliable in English without subtitles and with Slovenian subtitles

The video is published with the consent of Dr Büchler. You shall not download, copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise use the content for any other purposes without the prior consent of the BeeConSel team. You can contact us through beeconsel@kis.si

The official start of the BeeConSel project

We officially started the project with a two day online event held on the 3rd and 4th of December, 2020.

The first day was dedicated to planning our project activities on our 1st Steering Committee, which went very smoothly and successfully.

The official presentation for the public and media was held on the second day and was organised by the lead partner, Agricultural Institute of Slovenia. Approximately 60 attendees were first greeted by the director of Agricultural Institute of Slovenia, prof. Andrej Simončič, PhD. The project was then presented by the coordinator of the project, asst. prof. Janez Prešern, PhD. The statement of the project value to the beekeeping was given by Jože Podgoršek, PhD, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food and on behalf of the EEA and Norway Grants Fund, the attendees were greeted by the Lead Consultant MaŁgorzata Nowak.

Jože Podgoršek,
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food of Slovenia
 
MaŁgorzata Nowak,
Lead Consultant for EEA and Norway Grants Fund
prof. Andrej Simončič, PhD,
director of the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia
asst. prof. Janez Prešern, PhD,
project coordinator

Dr Ralph Büchler, Landesbetrieb Landwirtschaft Hessen, Bieneninstitut Kirchhain, Germany rounded up the event with his lecture “The relevance of mating stations for selective breeding of honey bees”, which has highlighted the broader impact of project goals and sparked a lot of interest among the guests of the event.

Dr Ralph Büchler, Landesbetrieb Landwirtschaft Hessen, Bieneninstitut Kirchhain, Germany

Although the kick-off meeting was a little different than we are used to, it was still a resounding success.