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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora