Local bees survive better than imports: Danish scientists

Honeybees with roots in the local environment manage much better in the struggle for survival than imported honeybees, say scientists from Aarhus University in Denmark.

Many beekeepers believe that it is best to buy queens from outside instead of using the queens they have in their own beehives. However, there is increasing evidence that the global honeybee trade has detrimental effects, including the spread of new diseases and pests, senior scientist Per Kryger from the department of agroecology at the university said in a release.

The studies were carried out in 621 colonies of honeybees with 16 different genetic origins. The beehives were set up in 11 countries in Europe. There was one local strain and two foreign strains of honeybees at each location.

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The factors that had the greatest influence on the survival of the bees were infection with varroa mites, problems with the queen and infection with the disease nosema. Colonies with queens from the local environment managed on average 83 days more than colonies with queens from foreign areas.

“It is very clear that the local bees fare better than imported ones and that they live longer. It is not possible to point at one single factor that gives the local bees the advantage, but it appears to be an interaction between several factors,” Kryger said.

“Our results indicate that the way forward is to strengthen the breeding programs with local honeybees instead of imported queens. That would help maintain the bee population’s natural diversity. It would also contribute to preventing the collapse of bee colonies, optimize sustainable productivity, and make it possible to maintain continual adaptation to environmental changes,” the release said.

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