Publications: Research reports and publications

Supra-zero storage of honey bee sperm – update for Rainbow Honey and Nelson Honey Ltd, September 2015

1 September, 2015
Cawthron Report No. 2772. Prepared for Rainbow Honey and Nelson Honey Ltd.


Cryopreservation (ultra-low temperature storage) and supra-zero storage methods (i.e. storage at temperatures above 0°C) for sperm can be powerful tools in selective breeding. The methods enable breeders to make the most desirable crosses on demand without seasonal constraints and to evaluate the resulting progeny for a range of economically important traits. With these methods in place, valuable germplasm can be stored and recovered at will to optimally manage genetic diversity for long-term sustainability, to balance selection intensity across traits and to manage genetic trade-offs between them.

In order for cryopreservation or supra-zero short-term storage to be implemented in selective breeding, the methods developed must be reliable and robust. Ideally, queens inseminated with stored sperm should produce functional hives and lay for at least several months. However, the benchmark for implementing cryopreservation in selective breeding is the ability to recover genes.

Several papers have been published relating to the development of a method for cryopreserving honey bee sperm (e.g. Harbo 1979; Harbo 1981; Harbo 1983; Kaftanoglu and Peng 1984; Stucky et al. 2008; Taylor et al. 2009; Hopkins and Herr 2010; Hopkins et al. 2012; Wegener and Bienfeld 2012; Wegener et al. 2014). However, with many of the protocols evaluated, queens inseminated with cryopreserved sperm laid proportionately variable numbers of workers (0-100%) and were often "patchy layers". The number of sperm reaching the spermatheca was also variable, sometimes by orders of magnitude, when measured (e.g. Harbo 1979; Kaftanoglu and Peng 1984; Wegner et al. 2014) and where reported, queens inseminated with cryopreserved sperm were absent after about two months of laying (Hopkins et al. 2012).

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