A Bio-Economic Case Study of Canadian Honey Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Colonies: Marker-Assisted Selection (MAS) in Queen Breeding Affects Beekeeper Profits

J Econ Entomol. 2017 Jun 1;110(3):816-825. doi: 10.1093/jee/tox077.


Over the past decade in North America and Europe, winter losses of honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colonies have increased dramatically. Scientific consensus attributes these losses to multifactorial causes including altered parasite and pathogen profiles, lack of proper nutrition due to agricultural monocultures, exposure to pesticides, management, and weather. One method to reduce colony loss and increase productivity is through selective breeding of queens to produce disease-, pathogen-, and mite-resistant stock. Historically, the only method for identifying desirable traits in honey bees to improve breeding was through observation of bee behavior. A team of Canadian scientists have recently identified markers in bee antennae that correspond to behavioral traits in bees and can be tested for in a laboratory. These scientists have demonstrated that this marker-assisted selection (MAS) can be used to produce hygienic, pathogen-resistant honey bee colonies. Based on this research, we present a beekeeping case study where a beekeeper's profit function is used to evaluate the economic impact of adopting colonies selected for hygienic behavior using MAS into an apiary. Our results show a net profit gain from an MAS colony of between 2% and 5% when Varroa mites are effectively treated. In the case of ineffective treatment, MAS generates a net profit benefit of between 9% and 96% depending on the Varroa load. When a Varroa mite population has developed some treatment resistance, we show that MAS colonies generate a net profit gain of between 8% and 112% depending on the Varroa load and degree of treatment resistance.

Keywords: Varroa; economics; honey bee; marker-assisted selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropod Antennae / metabolism
  • Beekeeping / economics*
  • Bees / genetics*
  • Breeding* / economics
  • Canada
  • Genetic Markers
  • Selection, Genetic


  • Genetic Markers