Growing Futures

A breeding sanctuary

Bees to combat varroa

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A breeding sanctuary

The bee breeding programme began in Hamilton, at Plant & Food Research’s Ruakura site. Over three years, forty colonies, each with about 80,000 bees, were bred; however, no information was available on whether the trait would be passed on to subsequent generations at a high enough rate to effectively combat the varroa mite.

To track the long term inheritance of the VSH trait, the colonies needed to live in a place where no other bees, and therefore no varroa, would interfere. Great Mercury Island was one of the only places in New Zealand with no wild honeybees. The owners of the island, Sir Michael Fay and David Richwhite, were happy to help, and the colonies were transported to the island in 2008. The colonies with the most enduring inheritance of the trait were then used to breed new queens for introduction to commercial hives by the beekeeping industry.