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Genome BC Funds $5.7M Project to Research Healthier Honey Bees

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – In an effort to address massive declines of honey bee populations in recent years, Genome BC has awarded a C$5.7 million (US$5.7 million) to a research project that seeks to discover ways to use genetics and marker-assisted selection to develop more disease-resistant bees.

Scientists at the University of British Columbia will use the funding to detect and analyze naturally-occurring proteins and gene traits that make bees behave more hygienically. More hygienic bees lead to cleaner hives that are less susceptible to diseases that are caused by a range of contributing factors, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mites.

In the last year the honey bee population in Canada and the US dropped by around 30 percent, according to investigator Leonard Foster, an assistant professor in UBC's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The research team also will try to develop a novel RNAi-based treatment for bees to protect them against viruses and keep the viruses from developing a resistance to the therapy.

"The tools being developed in this project are expected to be less susceptible to evolutionary resistance and the development timeline should be less than traditional pesticides," Foster said.

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