Developing A Genomic Breeding Program for Indiana Bee Breeders

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2023: $14,999.00
Projected End Date: 12/01/2026
Grant Recipient: Purdue University
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Brock Harpur
Purdue University


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

Title: Developing A Genomic Breeding Program for Indiana Bee Breeders

Context: Genomic Selection (GS) has revolutionized animal breeding by reducing generation intervals and allowing for predictive selection. Bee breeding plays an essential role in maintaining the health and abundance of honey bee colonies across the United States but beekeepers have yet to incorporate GS in to breeding practices due to technical hurdles and lack of information. My stakeholders, The Indiana Queen Breeders Association (IQBA) have worked to develop and distribute high-quality honey bees across the US. Their work has created a locally-adapted breed that is productive and useful in industry. Unfortunately, the long generation interval and the unpredictability of bee mating in traditional breeding programs makes the process challenging, slow, inaccurate, and expensive. My stakeholders want to incorporate GS into their practices to alleviate these challenges, but lack the required expertise or funds. I propose to work directly with one of Indiana’s largest commercial beekeepers and the IQBA to implement GS in honey bees.

Methods: For the next three years, I plan to integrate a phenotyping and genotyping scheme into existing IQBA bee breeding practices. I plan to build a dataset of economically desirable traits for nearly 2,000 colonies and use GS to breed bees more rapidly and accurately than previously possible and establish IQBA as the first genomic-driven bee breeders in the country.

Outcomes: I will create a GS method that integrates with existing bee breeding infrastructure and practices. This will create a unique, well-selected, locally adapted genetic resource, allowing breeders to produce more productive and robust colonies. This method will be communicated widely through Purdue workshops and extension publications. Stakeholders will learn how to incorporate genomics and evaluate stock robustly.

Evaluation: Success is quantified as increases in phenotypic performance of colonies; profitability of the breeding program in the hands of the IQBA; and an increase in their understanding of GS (utilizing standard pre- and post-surveys).

Relevance: My stakeholders in the NC Region and beyond want to use genomic tools. Throughout the proposed project, I will work directly with them to design and execute a first-of-its kind breeding program. This will result in a more robust bee for Indiana and the NC region and a blueprint for future bee breeding efforts nationwide.

Project objectives from proposal:

The Purdue Bee Lab works with beekeepers and bee breeders locally and nationwide. Locally, the Indiana Queen Breeders Association (IQBA) and Clover Blossom Honey Company have explicitly expressed interest in this proposal. With the help of Mr. Shenefield (Letter of Participation), I will be working towards four direct outcomes:

  1. Breeders will learn how to generate, interpret, and implement genomic data, with assistance from Purdue’s existing Sequencing Services
  2. The IQBA will develop and maintain a Genomic Selected population of honey bees, and continue to use these methods past the end of the project
  3. The IQBA will experience an annual increase in genetic gain (and thus profitability) of their population
  4. Breeders nationwide will increase their use of genomic tools through participation in workshops and utilization of extension materials produced as a result this project.

In addition, by working in tandem with one of Indiana’s largest commercial bee breeders, six undergraduate field technicians will receive high quality training in the trade over the course of the project. We hope this will inspire them to pursue research applicable to commercial apiculture, helping bridge the gap between the commercial and academic realms. Finally, upon completion of my PhD, I intend to utilize the skills and knowledge developed during the project in an industry career in honey bee genomic selection.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.