Preserving the Buzz: BeeConSel’s Journey Towards Sustainable Bee Breeding


In the world of honey bees, genetic erosion poses a looming threat, especially as we confront the challenges of a changing climate. Locally adapted genotypes are crucial for navigating these tumultuous times, making honey bee breeding programs indispensable tools for conservation and improvement. However, their success hinges on one critical factor: controlled mating. 

One of the BeeConSel goals was designed to test and to provide tailor-made solutions for breeding programs in beneficiary countries. Mating control in honey bees is needed for breeding purposes, where the next generation originates from the most desirable queens. Breeding programs are designed to ensure genetic gain for the wide population, where usually not all stakeholders are participating with their stock. In such a program, it is essential that all participants agree on the minimum criteria and methods used. But, to ensure the sustainability of the breeding program many other aspects must be closely monitored, such as genetic diversity, inbreeding, and genetic gain, but also to be cost-effective. 

Our journey began with a deep dive into the world of beekeepers’ perceptions and the economics of mating control. As expected, we found that mating control holds great promise, but its implementation is hindered by unproductive legal frameworks and prohibitive costs. We have addressed this problem by modelling what legislation regulating honey bee breeding and mating control should include based on our findings. Five laws and policies have already been influenced, with more likely to follow.

It was of high importance to apply the multilateral knowledge exchange and execute unparalleled fieldwork in which we tested several approaches to mating control that can be tailored to local requirements. Later, by verifying their efficiency in the lab, we modelled their performance and selected several as a possible solution for national breeding programs and involved queen breeders. The proposed solutions suggested controlled mating brings a 1.4 – 2.1 gain over the gains in selection without mating. Such a result would make local queen bees more attractive, thus facilitating the preservation of the gene pool and at the same time offering beekeepers a key tool in the selection of desired traits. 

But the icing on the cake of all our research and scientific work was definitely how we improved the skills of young beekeepers and queen breeders through workshops and expanded towards equality in a predominantly male profession. The feedback from Magdalena after the Instrumental insemination workshop still warms our hearts:

“I’m overjoyed to have been part of such a project and hopefully, when spring rolls around again next season, I’ll be lucky enough to be invited again. With that, I’ll have one more chance to supplement my knowledge in the area of queen bees and their mating, as well as beekeeping in general, and implement it in realising my business ideas. The thought that I will be among the first to introduce instrumental insemination in the practice of Macedonian beekeeping led me not to regret for a moment that, after 8 hours a day, I sat at the microscope and inseminated the queen. The best feeling was when I did it successfully.”

BeeConSels’ legacy is clear: a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and a shared commitment to safeguarding the world’s buzzing wonders. Through our efforts, BeeConSel has paved the way for a future where honey bees thrive in their local environment, ensuring that their vital contributions to our ecosystem endure for generations to come.

We have experienced great collaboration between partners from different regions. While occasionally disagreeing in expert opinions, we agreed on this: should another similar call appear, we would apply again. Thematic? Perhaps capitalization and exploitation of obtained results. If novelty would be required, pollinators sound like fun. Something green and something useful, too.


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