The Darwin cure for apiculture? Natural selection and managed honeybee health

Neumann, P.; Blacquiere, T.


Recent major losses of managed honeybee, Apis mellifera, colonies at a global scale have resulted in a multitude of research efforts to identify the underlying mechanisms. Numerous factors acting singly and/or in combination have been identified, ranging from pathogens, over nutrition to pesticides. However, the role of apiculture in limiting natural selection has largely been ignored. This is unfortunate, because honeybees are more exposed to environmental stressors compared to other livestock and management can severely compromise bee health. Here, we briefly review apicultural factors that influence bee health and focus on those most likely interfering with natural selection, which offers a broad range of evolutionary applications for field practice. Despite intense breeding over centuries, natural selection appears to be much more relevant for the health of managed A. mellifera colonies than previously thought. We conclude that sustainable solutions for the apicultural sector can only be achieved by taking advantage of natural selection and not by attempting to limit it