AgriFutures Plan Bee logo

Using innovative breeding technologies, this project will help secure Australia’s honey bee population and transform their performance.

Pollination of crops by honey bees and production of honey is worth $14.2 billion in annual economic value to Australia. To efficiently achieve this, beekeepers need to breed the best quality bees for crop pollination and honey production. Using innovative breeding technologies, this project will help secure Australia’s honey bee population and transform their performance. The Program will focus on identifying and selecting traits of importance to beekeeping, horticulture and broad acre industries (dependent on pollination services) and will develop a national database to assist beekeepers choose their breeding stock according to these traits.

The strength of this project is its ability to leverage benefits across two industries – beekeeping and agriculture. Through research, partnerships and education the project will generate gains for beekeepers in honey production and improve productivity and profitability for primary producers in pollination-dependent industries.

Extensive research into current honey bee breeding programs, including into the needs of beekeepers and agriculture, will lead to identification of the genetic traits that drive economic performance through honey production, bee health and pollination efficiency.

The project will:

  • Facilitate an economic evaluation of the feasibility and sustainability of a national bee breeding scheme through collaboration with established international R&D programs on bee genetics and genomics.
  • Conduct genetic and genomic analysis to establish pedigree and genetic merit of bees and hives
  • Implement standardised selection criteria that enables accurate assessment of bees and hives to improve honey bee genetic performance, decrease costs, reduce the impact of disease, increase the amount of honey produced and increase the value of hives as pollination units
  • Evaluate new technologies for performing standardised hive assessments
  • Develop a database of genetic merit to assist queen breeders with marketing their stock and help beekeepers make purchasing decisions; this will also act as a proof of concept around a database of this capacity

Partnerships will be developed between researchers, beekeeping industries and agriculture with the aim of improving beekeeping profitability and ensuring security of pollination.

Education within this project will focus on removing barriers to the adoption of improved selection procedures and delivering extension programs that increase the capacity and skills of queen bee producers, beekeepers and pollination contractors.

WE NEED YOU: Pollination survey

The Plan Bee project continues to explore how we can improve the productivity and value of the honey bee and pollination industries. To continue to guide the program, we are seeking input from growers in the avocado, almond and blueberry industries and beekeepers to understand the challenges affecting pollination services, and the opportunities where Plan Bee can help overcome existing issues.

By completing this 5-minute survey, you will help ensure that the Plan Bee program progresses with the pollination services industry at its core.

Survey for growers: https://redcap.sydney.edu.au/surveys/?s=JT3JDL9PNR

Survey for beekeepers: https://redcap.sydney.edu.au/surveys/?s=CMN8KFM3PP

Surveys are critical to the progress of Plan Bee. For example, a survey conducted in 2020 has helped guide the selection or traits for genetic improvement. That survey helped us identify priorities for beekeepers and queen bee breeders. It told us that honey production and brood pattern were the most important traits, just ahead of other traits such as chalkbrood resistance, hygienic behaviour and European foulbrood resistance.

For more information on the 2020 survey click here

Project funding

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program.

Under the Rural R&D for Profit program, AgriFutures Australia received:

Grant funding: $1,646,838

Partner cash contributions: $1,357,500

In-kind contributions: $736,223

Total project resources: $3,740,561

Project partners

Contact

Paul Blackshaw
Project Manager
0427 546 643
paul.blackshaw@agrifutures.com.au

extensionAUS Professional Beekeepers
Website: www.extensionaus.com.au/professionalbeekeepers
Facebook: @PBeekeepers
Twitter: @PBeekeepers
LinkedIn: extensionAUS Professional Beekeepers

 

Resources

Plan Bee Breeding Manual

This manual has been developed in consultation with industry through surveys, interviews, and workshops. It is the culmination of all this feedback. The manual will be a ‘living document’ in that it will be updated to reflect feedback from those participating in the program and lessons that the project team learns from working with the diversity of queen breeders and beekeepers.

Read more

Breeding Manual: trait recording document instructional video

Want more information on how to use the Trait Recording document? Watch the instructional video here.

Watch Video

Trait recording file

Download Breeding Manual accompanying trait recording file

Download

Queen ID File

Download Breeding Manual accompanying Queen ID file

Download

Plan Bee Project Updates

Catch up on the latest news and updates on the Plan Bee project.

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Plan Bee – Australian honey bee genetic improvement program

Plan Bee aims to foster a sustainable national genetic improvement program using innovative breeding technologies to transform the performance of honey bees in Australia.

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Have your say on queen breeding

We need the opinions of Australian beekeepers and queen producers to help us to develop this important program for industry. Complete the industry survey to let us know what traits are important to you.

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Plan Bee National Honey Bee Genetic Improvement Program

Nadine Chapman from the University of Sydney talks about the National Honey Bee Genetic Improvement Program.

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Temper, temper

No one likes a cranky colony. It seems simple enough to just select the nicest hive and use it to breed from, but measuring temperament can actually be quite difficult.

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How is Plan Bee different from previous breeding programs?

Many breeding programs have contributed to the industry, so how is this one different?

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Workshop: Plan Bee Standardised Trait Selection Manual

Plan Bee is developing a Standardised Trait Selection Manual for the Australian beekeeping industry in consultation with bee breeders from around the country. This video captures the final industry workshop and offers an opportunity for beekeepers unable to attend to join the discussion.

Watch Video

Latest News and Events

02.11.21

Best in the West: Improving the genetics of WA bee stock

Western Australia is an important region for the Australian honey bee industry, with a breeding program dating back to the 1980s. With good breeding stock maintained in Western Australia for over forty years, the region is a critical part of the success of Australia’s national genetic improvement program – Plan Bee.

16.08.21

Plan Bee researcher profile: Elizabeth Frost

Plan Bee is a national genetic improvement program using innovative breeding technologies to transform the performance of honey bees in Australia. The project team are located throughout the country and are experts on everything from genetics, entomology and beekeeping practices.

10.03.21

Beekeepers back genetic improvement to boost honey bee industry performance

Around half of Australian beekeepers desire more information to be made available on the queen bees they purchase, with selection traits and queen bee pedigree at the top of the list.

22.09.20

‘Plan Bee’ to deliver A+ breeding tech to honey bee industry

In a first for Australian honey bee breeding programs, a national genetic improvement program is underway to protect the beekeeping, horticulture and broadacre industries dependent on superior honey bee performance.

21.04.21

Plan Bee researcher profile: Dr Nadine Chapman

Plan Bee is a national genetic improvement program using innovative breeding technologies to transform the performance of honey bees in Australia. The project team are located throughout the country and are experts on everything from genetics, entomology and beekeeping practices. As the nationwide program rolls out, we will be introducing key members of the team to understand more about the people driving this program forward.