News / Science & Technology

Artificial Insemination Could Breed Better Bee

Rosanne Skirble
Honeybees are in trouble. Each year since 2006, one-third of their hives have been wiped out by a mysterious disease called Colony Collapse Disorder.

While experts aren't certain, they believe poor hive management, overworked bees, pesticides or parasitic mites could be to blame.

A beekeeper in Frederick, Maryland, is working on breeding a queen bee that can help her hive withstand the assault.

Breeding a better bee

Adam Finkelstein manages to keep his small operation healthy. He keeps some 200 hives not far from Washington, D.C..

His bees spend the winter in hives which are naturally insulated with honey to keep them warm in the coolest months. This time of year, the bees have begun their daily sorties to collect nectar.
Beekeepers want to keep the parasitic varroa mite, the little brown spot seen on the bee, out of their hives. (BugMan50 Brad Smith, Creative Commons)Beekeepers want to keep the parasitic varroa mite, the little brown spot seen on the bee, out of their hives. (BugMan50 Brad Smith, Creative Commons)
x
Beekeepers want to keep the parasitic varroa mite, the little brown spot seen on the bee, out of their hives. (BugMan50 Brad Smith, Creative Commons)
Beekeepers want to keep the parasitic varroa mite, the little brown spot seen on the bee, out of their hives. (BugMan50 Brad Smith, Creative Commons)

Finkelstein has five bee yards at the core of his breeding program.  “We’re testing for yield, gentleness, the ability to get through the winter, the ability to build up in the spring, the ability to make honey and the ability to be thrifty and to keep alive during periods when there is no food.”

His major focus is on breeding a stronger queen resistant to the varroa mite, a parasite originally from Asia that carries viruses into the hive and has become a major problem for beekeepers in the U.S. and elsewhere. 

“Our bees handle this mite just fine and produce honey and can pollinate and can make more bees and that’s our goal and we’re getting there,” he says.

Artificial insemination

Finkelstein says breeding is a work in progress. He uses artificial insemination, which allows him to select desirable traits from both male and female. 

The procedure isn’t difficult, he says, but takes practice and patience. Working from his home laboratory, he first sedates the queen using carbon dioxide.
Beekeeper Adam Finkelstein articifially inseminates the virgin queen in his effort to breed a hardier bee. (VP Queen Bees/Adam Finkelstein)Beekeeper Adam Finkelstein articifially inseminates the virgin queen in his effort to breed a hardier bee. (VP Queen Bees/Adam Finkelstein)
x
Beekeeper Adam Finkelstein articifially inseminates the virgin queen in his effort to breed a hardier bee. (VP Queen Bees/Adam Finkelstein)
Beekeeper Adam Finkelstein articifially inseminates the virgin queen in his effort to breed a hardier bee. (VP Queen Bees/Adam Finkelstein)
 
“While she is anesthetized, we use a very small set of instruments to position a syringe and deliver a known quantity of semen," he says. "And that’s it. She’s mated.”

Pesticide-free operation

Finkelstein tests his queens in his many hives. Once he's evaluated their traits, he sells them, making room for new queens.

He maintains a pesticide-free operation, unlike most commercial producers who depend on chemical treatments to keep their bees healthy.

“However, eventually, if the treatments fail to work or if the level of toxicity in the wax in the beehives becomes so great and the queens are not fertile," he says, "then those folks will probably turn towards a hardier, more mite tolerant queen choice.”

Finkelstein happily says a few of those bigger operations have begun to collaborate with him, recognizing that the future of beekeeping may not be about the next best pesticide, but about queens bred to produce offspring that can resist pathogens.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Big D from: West Virginia
June 11, 2012 8:08 AM
This person from Oregon is misguided. Mr. Finkelstein is breeding and incorporating genetics from bees who have done well in the colder climates. He is using stock bees from Minnesota. You should read some of the blogging he posts in other forums about his work. Your tone is rude and judgmental and colony collapse is not because of the invasion of the Africanized bee.

by: Nabuquduriuzhur from: Oregon
June 05, 2012 3:28 PM
Why does it have to be something mysterious? Think that the native bees and non-commercial european bee hives in the north part of the country are doing well because of something unusual?
The reason for colony collapse is the invasion of the Africanized bee. It cannot handle temperatures of 32 or below for more than a few minutes.

By 2000, our entire southern tier states had the Africanized bee mixed with european bees. They exported these to others states. When there was a freeze, or when winter set in, the colonies died off. The weather has sharply cooled off since 2003 and the africanized bee does not do well in it.

Compare that with forest populations of european bees in our northern states. They are doing quite well. Our native pollinators are doing well, despite varroa and tracheal mites (which have been around for millennia). Its' possible to count 9 native bee types here in the northwest ranging from 1/8" long to 2" long, just by going out in a garden or flower garden for ten minutes. It's not like pesticides and other chemicals were not used like water here, just as every other place in the country.

So why not simply deal with the real reason for the commercial colony collapses, instead of the unscientific hysteria stuff?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More