B.C. geneticists get funding for Varroa, Colony Collapse Disorder research in honey bees

Originally published August 17, 2011 in The Vancouver Sun.

British Columbia academia’s well-deserved developing knowledge around life sciences is paying off again with new funding for a project to try and identify varroa-resistant strains of honey bees. B.C. is fast becoming a province where solutions to the problems of varroa and the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder are being sought.
Last night I wrote a story for our paper noting that Leonard Foster’s lab at the Centre for High-Throughput Biology  at the University of B.C. is getting more funding for its genomics and proteomics research of honey bees. It’s part of a $25 million grant the province has given to Genome BC to fund a variety of research projects using molecular biology.
Foster is away on holidays and wasn’t available for an interview, but I received this note last night in which he explained the importance of his honey bee research.

“The importance I think is highlighted by the sustained loss of about 30% of North American bees every winter. For the most part we know what is causing these losses – the varroa mite and a fungal disease causing Nosema.””Varroa are a particular problem because they seem to be able to quickly develop resistance to conventional acaricides that are used to suppress them. What we are doing is aimed at giving beekeepers new tools for fighting these diseases, ones that should be considerably more difficult for the mites to develop resistance to.”

The full text of my story is here.
It is worth noting that Foster is one of a long list of scientists and geneticists who are speaking at the B.C. Honey Producers Association’s annual general conference Oct. 20-23 in Richmond.

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