A genetic marker is any genetic variant that is easily measured. These days most genetic markers involve the detection of changes in a DNA sequence. These tiny differences may have no bearing on phenotype, but can show strong genetic linkage to genes that actually do affect phenotype. Thus we can potentially use a genetic marker to help choose elite animals for breeding purposes. This is known as Marker Assisted Selection or MAS. MAS has been successfully developed in several animal species of agricultural importance, especially dairy cattle and pigs where markers for milk and carcass quality parameters respectively are known. The advantages of MAS over traditional breeding methods is that animals can be selected for breeding at a relatively young age without the need for extensive and expensive field trials. More often, however, MAS is used as a useful adjunct to traditional field trials.
This report describes an attempt to develop the first genetic markers for MAS in the honeybee. Although this goal was not achieved during the life of this project, tremendous progress has been made towards it. One marker was identified which shows a good correlation with hygienic behaviour, but we were unable to convert this marker to a simple diagnostic test. More importantly, a new framework for developing genetic markers for hygienic behaviour has been developed, and the research team is now pursuing this goal.
This report is primarily aimed at policy makers within the honeybee industry. We hope that it will help guide future policy and funding decisions regarding bee breeding efforts in Australia. The report will also be of interest to queen breeders.