Unhealthy Brood Odour
This is a recording of work between a queen bee breeder – Cory Stephens, and Dr Kaira Wagoner of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who has pioneered an approach to breed Varroa resistance without an active mite population and Cory Stevens – a queen bee breeder.
A simple technique, a mix of unhealthy brood odour pheromones, is sprayed onto an area of a healthy brood. The number of brood uncapped by the (hopefully) hygienic bees are recorded and used in further breeding if they make the grade. The product – UBeeO – is expected to be released in the United States over the next 12-18 months and then released elsewhere globally. I’m very fortunate to be part of a small investment group of Australian bee breeders who have early access to the product and will use it this season to assess the hygienic behaviour of our top-performing bees. Perhaps I will have a few gems hidden in amongst the colonies.
UBeeO is more accessible to queen breeders because the spray is non-toxic, is not complicated to handle, and results can be checked in about two hours.
Contrast this with a freeze-killed brood test that uses hazardous substances – such as liquid nitrogen – and takes about two days to interpret the result. Freeze killing does not accurately indicate how effective a colony of bees might be in detecting and remediating an odour-based brood infestation of varroa.
Below is a UBeeO image illustrating the application of UBeeO to a patch of brood on a frame. The result is an uncapping of cells with some indication – the nurse bees at least – that there is a problem based on the pheromone of the UBeeO spray.
The alternative to the UBeeO technique is illustrated below – the traditional freeze-killed brood testing application requires liquid nitrogen and up to three days to get a result.