Among domestic animals, the honey bee (Apis mellifera) has an extremely relevant economic significance for the production of honey, wax, pollen, propolis and royal jelly, but above all for the important role in the pollination of arboreal and herbaceous species, essential for human nutrition. Nevertheless, the genetic management of this species both on a selective level and on that of biodiversity conservation is somewhat problematic.
In fact, the reproductive moment, escapes human control as the virgin queen is fertilized in free flight by a variable number of drones in the environment. Failure to control mating hinders an effective selective genetic improvement action that can be done, at this point, mainly on the maternal route.
Furthermore, free mating paves the way for the genetic erosion of local varieties by different genetic types. Apis mellifera in fact has over 30 geographic varieties, described in detail in the 1980s by Friedrich Ruttner on a morphometric basis and by Friar Adam (Karl Kehrle) of the Buckfast Abbey for their productive and behavioural characteristics. These breeds have spread and consolidated in Europe since the end of the last glaciation, enjoying a stable and temperate climate that has determined an optimal adaptation to different regional environments.
However, the local varieties are currently suffering the increasing impact of:
selected and commercially more valid genetic types, spread by globalization
climate changes that can compromise their fitness
parasites and pathogens that globalization has brought out of their original niches to spread them on a planetary level.
In this scenario, it quickly becomes urgent to take action on these fields:
protection of the local varieties of genetic erosion phenomena described above
the selective enhancement that makes them competitive with respect to genetic types of interest for behavioural and productive characteristics.
The Operational Group (OG) of this project wants to suggest a concrete management model for the bee populations in Lombardy that on one hand encourages the sustainable selection, that takes into consideration the impact of climate change, and on the other hand supports the safeguard of the genetic types existing on the territory for the protection of the current biodiversity, but that's also capable of promoting the creation of a new biodiversity.