Basic considerations in the development of breeding plans for honey bees, illustrated by data on the native Syrian honey bee (Apis mellifera syriaca)
M Khaled Zakour and Kaspar Bienefeld
The principles of valuing biodiversity are well understood, but methodologies are not yet adequate for enhancing the diversity of honey bee genetic resources. Genetic diversity is generally assumed to be an important barrier against changing environmental conditions, yet some indigenous honey bee breeds are at risk of becoming extinct. The causes of this often stem from development policies in developing countries in the Middle East and other parts of the world, which have largely ignored well-adapted local breeds. The focus instead has been on the introduction of “improved”, exotic ones. Hence, one potential way to ensure survival and promote conservation is by establishing selection programmes that improve efficiency and behaviour in endangered breeds, whilst maintaining their environmental adaptation. However, to develop appropriate genetic models and breeding strategies, genetic aspects and population peculiarities of honey bees must be taken into account. This study aimed at outlining all information needed to plan an efficient honey bee breeding programme, and illustrate this with the example of the endangered Syrian honey bee (Apis mellifera syriaca).