The Principles of Selective Breeding

Establishing Resistance

Thinking about Selection

The Importance of Genetic Variation

The Politics

Further Thoughts

Selected Links

Plants for Bees

Failure to Select: The Cause of Weakness in Bees


Selected Links 

(Arranged so that the top links should be visited first by beekeepers seeking practical guidance) Last edited 7/1/10

Practical Advice, esp. Selection Criteria

A sustainable approach to controlling honeybee diseases and varroa mites by Marla Spivak, one of the leading US researchers, and a breeder of 'hygienic' bees.

Bee Improvement in Cornwall, a commonsense approach to selection criteria

Four Simple Steps to Healthier Bees by Michael Bush,1,Four Simple Steps to Healthier Bees By Michael Bush Copyright 2008

Producing Varroa-tolerant Honey Bees from Locally Adapted Stock: A Recipe, by E.H. Erickson, L.H. Hines, and A.A. Atmowidjojo

Two more links to Marla Spivak's work:

New Direction for the Minnesota Hygienic Line of Bees, Marla Spivak and Gary S. Reuter

"We are now returning to our original goal of having queen producers and interested beekeepers select for this trait from among their own, tried-and-true stocks of bees. It is very important for beekeepers to have many stocks of bees to maintain a healthy level of genetic diversity [...] Fortunately, the hygienic trait is found in all races and stocks of bees."

The Hygiene Queen, Marla Spivak and Gary S. Reuter

"Any race or line of bees can be bred for hygienic behavior. We recommend that bee breeders select for hygienic behavior from among their best breeder colonies; i.e., from those that have proven to be productive, gentle, and that display all the characteristics desired by the breeder. A breeder can get a head start on selecting for hygienic behavior simply by rearing queens from colonies that do not have chalkbrood."  

"The effects of American foulbrood, chalkbrood and Varroa mites can be alleviated if queen producers select for hygienic behavior from their own lines of bees. Because a small percentage of the managed colonies today express hygienic behavior, it is important for many bee breeders to select for the behavior to maintain genetic variability within and among bee lines.

Our experience has shown there are no apparent negative characteristics that accompany the trait. Years of research experience have shown it would greatly benefit the beekeeping industry if productive, hygienic lines were available commercially."

Introductionary study for breeding Varroa resistant bees, Final report, 2004. by Tore Forsman, Per Ideström and Erik Österlund of the Swedish Beekeeping Association.  An extensive survey of reports of successful breeding programs, with comments by leading expert researchers.

The exciting potential of remote feral bee colonies for Varroa coexistence, a short 2005 paper by Adrian M. Wenner of the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California.  This closely parallels the general thesis proposed here.

Ecological  Joe Waggle's pages

John Kefuss: Keeping Bees That Keep Themselves, by M.E.A. McNeil

A report of John Kufuss' success - and the 'Live and let Die' method, an extensive site built by an experienced Californian Beekeeper, Randy Oliver: 


Survival of mite infested (Varroa destructor) honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies in a Nordic climate*, Ingemar Friesa, Anton Imdorfb, Peter Rosenkrantzc

"Our results allow us to conclude that the problems facing the apicultural industry with mite infestations is probably linked to the apicultural system, where beekeepers remove the selective pressure induced from the parasitism by removing mites through control efforts."


Supporting links to the basic science behind selective multiplication 

Wiki, Natural Selection: a good primer supplying all that is needed to understand the basic processes.

Wiki, Animal Breeding

Wiki, Plant Breeding

Wiki, Evolutionary Biology: an introduction to the discipline.

Wiki, Adaptation, an account of the process whereby an organism becomes better suited to its habitat.


'Natural' beekeeping:

(Please be aware of my general position: _all_ interference to protect bees from predators, including parasites and diseases, tends to result in offspring that require the same kind of interference.  This tends to weaken local colonies in the next generation):

Towards Sustainable Beekeeping by David Heaf:

Natural Beekeeping: an outline of the basics of keeping bees with minimal interference (US)

The Swindon Honeybee Conservation Group (SHCG): a UK group who have enjoyed what they call 'Hygienic Behaviour Success'

Warré Beekeeping: a version of top-frame hiving, with useful links


Improving the environment for Honeybees:

Bee Conservation in the Southeast: excellent advice on how to improve the local habitat by increasing season-round nectar flows (US)


Bibliographic sources

Glen Apiaries have a great website for details of bee genetics and breeding:

The relevant section of their bibliography:

The genetics page:








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