Ligurian bees

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Queen Bee
Nov 8, 2008
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Finland, Helsinki
Hive Type
Has anybody experiences about this Italian bee stock and about its habits?

"South Australia is especially known for its Kangaroo Island Ligurian bees. This population of bees have been isolated on the Island since 1884 and are believed to be the only pure strain of Ligurian bees in the world. The pure Ligurian bee provides a benchmark for measuring hybridization of honey bees and as a genetic pool of pure Ligurian bees."
Have emailed a friend in OZ- he kept apiary on an island near Perth so unsure if same area - but was curious.
Hi Finman,
I could only find a small ammount of information regarding the Ligurian bee;

Kangaroo Island is famous for its honey and for being the oldest bee sanctuary in the world. Ligurian bees were imported from the Italian province of Liguria in 1881, and Kangaroo Island now has the only pure strain in the world. As a consequence, the importation to Kangaroo Island of bees or any honey products is prohibited.

Apparently they do not supply queens for other apiaries outside the island.
The reply from my friend in Oz- as promised...

The Ligurian bees on Kangaroo Island are inbred and have a relatively low brood viability. (If my memory serves me correctly, a study showed that some 30% of the worker eggs do not hatch due to inbreeding). I understand that there is now a program to try to improve the stock on Kangaroo Island. I strongly support the efforts being made there to maintain and improve these bees.

Our bee breeding program started by selecting the best available stock in the state of the Italian strain, which is most suited to our conditions in Western Australia, following the quarantine closure of our borders in 1977 due to and outbreak of European Foul Brood disease in the eastern states. Western Australia is still free of the disease. Prior to the border closure, beekeepers purchased queen bees from a number of queen breeders in the eastern states, or bred their own. Italian, Caucasian and Carniolan bees had been imported previously and hence bee population in Western Australia had a mixture of genes from these races, although the Italian bee was more dominant due to its popularity amongst beekeepers.

Beekeepers in Western Australia gave their best queens of the Italian strain to the Department of Agriculture for breeding and further selection to establish the program. Once we had selected the most productive stock, we use artificial insemination (AI), using homogenised semen, to further breed and select the best bees. We commences the program with 20 breeding lines. Pooled the semen from drones from the queens in the 20 lines was homogenised and used to inseminate eight virgin queens raised from the best queen in each of the 20 lines. These inseminated queens became the next generation. By using homogenised semen, we could then accurately evaluate the performance of each queen in the program because the semen in each queen was the identical. Hives/queens within the program were evaluated under commercial beekeeping conditions for twelve months with some hives in a good year producing more than 200 kg of honey. Queens were evaluated for honey production, brood viability, temperament, disease resistance, brace comb and colour. the best queen in each line was then used as a breeder to maintain each breeding line.

In 1991, after 10 years of breeding, the Department of Agriculture sold the bee breeding program to commercial beekeepers who formed a consortium to continue the program. Because AI was relatively expensive and time consuming, the beekeepers do not use AI but now use Rottnest Island as an isolated mating station to mate the virgin queens bred from each of the lines, each year. Last year, 665 queen bees from 21 lines were successfully mated on the Island and these are currently being evaluated by the commercial beekeepers.

I know this explanation is a little long-winded, but I hope it explains the difference between our program and that on Kangaroo Island.

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