The Wheen Bee Foundation supports research projects that increase food security by ensuring strong honey bee populations. Our research objectives focus on the broad areas of bee health (including pests and diseases), nutrition, genetics, protection and biosecurity.
Some of the Research Projects undertaken by The Wheen Bee Foundation include:
Trapping and ecology of Asian honey bees in Cairns
Funded by RIRDC (the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation) with support from the Wheen Bee Foundation, Dr David Guez (James Cook University) has conducted various projects on Apis cerana, the Asian honey bee (AHB).
His research indicates that trap design, colour (yellow), sugar concentration (50-60% w/w), and almond essence can serve as an effective method for detection or baiting AHB.
The aroma of the orchid Cymbidium floribundum is a strong spontaneous attractant to AHB in Asia. Preliminary results have identified the likely plant compounds responsible.
AHB appears defenceless against small hive beetle, unlike A. mellifera and Trigona spp. Similarly, AHB seems defenceless against green tree ants. They also are unable to contain hive robbing by A. mellifera.
Significantly, AHB workers cease foraging if the relative humidity (RH) drops below 43%. These results indicate that RH is extremely significant to AHB ecology and may be a key indicator for predicting the possible expansion of AHB throughout Australia.
These findings place Australia in a better position to detect and eradicate future incursions of AHB before their spread makes eradication impracticable.
Attractants for small hive beetle
The Foundation is co-supporting a research project conducted by Dr Diana Leemon, from Agri-Science Queensland, that is looking at the development of an external lure and trap for small hive beetle (SHB).
Behavioural assays and gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) have been used to identify compounds in the natural odours produced by the fermented hive products (slime) that result from the SHB larval growth and which are highly attractive to SHB.
From these investigations 14 key chemical compounds have been identified. Individual compounds have been tested in behavioural assays for their attractiveness to adult SHB and mixtures of these compounds are being trialled to determine the optimum blend for a highly attractive synthetic lure for the small hive beetle.
Behavioural investigations have shown that adult SHB aggregate and further research is now progressing towards trying to capture any aggregation pheromone for GC-MS analysis.
Catching Small Hive Beetle: How to prepare and deploy lantern traps
Understanding colony collapse disorder
Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is characterized by the mass disappearance of worker honey bees from the hive. Only the queen, a few nurse bees and immature bees remain. Because there are insufficient workers present to maintain the hive it soon dies out.
CCD is multi-causal: disease challenges, habitat destruction, pesticides and climate change are all stressing bee colonies, and new solutions to manage bees to withstand these stresses are urgently needed.
The Wheen Bee Foundation made available facilities to assist research into CCD undertaken by the Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, and supervised by Andrew Barron.
The researchers constructed a mathematical model of hive demography to explore how individual reaction of bees to stress might impact colony performance. In the model, when forager death rates were chronically elevated, an increasingly younger forager force caused a positive feedback that dramatically accelerated terminal population decline in the colony. This resulted in a breakdown in division of labour and loss of the adult population, leaving only brood, food and few adults in the hive. That is, the model colonies displayed features that have been reported as colony collapse disorder.
This research has now attracted significant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture to allow it to continue.
Selection and development of Australian hygienic honey bee lines
Hygienic behaviour is a heritable, genetic trait that prompts bees to detect dead or diseased larvae and remove them before whatever is affecting them can spread to the rest of the colony.
As part of her PhD project at La Trobe University, Jody Gerdts has investigated the impact hygienic behaviour on disease resistance in bees. Using chalkbrood as the model, she has sought to;
- Identify hygienic lines of honey bee in Australia
- Understand mechanisms for chalkbrood resistance in honey bees
- Provide science-based information to beekeepers and queen breeders about breeding disease-resistant honey bees
The project is jointly funded by RIRDC and the Wheen Bee Foundation.
Taxonomy of native social bees
For over 30 years Anne and Les Dollin of the Australian Native Bee Research Centre have been studying Australia’s 1,600+ species of native bees. Recently Dr Anne Dollin completed a taxonomic revision of the Australian and New Guinea stingless bees in the genus Austroplebeia.
The Wheen Bee Foundation has been very pleased to support their work by providing the use of microscopes and laboratory equipment.
More research into the use of Australian native bees in agriculture is urgently needed.