Scientists, Led by Dr. Leonard Foster and Dr. Amro Zayed, Plan to Save Bees through Genetics
A diminishing bee population in North America has created ecological and economic distress. Honey bees in particular play a crucial role in Canada’s agriculture. In addition to factors that have diminished bee colonies elsewhere, the harsh cold of Canadian winters had led scientists to estimate that, since the winter of 2006-2007, almost one-quarter of the honey bee population has died off during each subsequent winter.
Bees have been imported from the United States in large numbers. Other importations pose major problems. Beekeepers have brought in “queen bees” from other regions and this involves the risk of introducing “killer bees”; diseased bees or those with invasive strains.
With an average yield of 75 million pounds of honey and the pollination of essential crops, the contribution of bees is estimated to be CAN$4.6 billion annually to Canada’s economy.
Now, with funds amounting to CAN$7.3, a team of scientists led by Dr. Leonard Foster and Dr. Amro Zayed will embark on a project using genomic and proteomic tools to provide beekeepers with 12 essential traits desirable in queen bees. By doing this, they will be able to ensure breeding bee colonies that are stronger and more able to sustain the cold winters.
“It is very clear that we have to develop innovative solutions for bee health because bee declines will have serious consequences for Canada’s economy and food security, warned lead researcher Amro Zayed of York University.
Some previous die-offs in the British Columbia wiped out much as 70% to 80% of the honeybee colonies in some regions. Seeing the worsening situation, in 2007, 2008 and 2009 large numbers of queens and colonies from other parts of the world were imported.