Bee Health, Bee Breeding and Bees as Pollinators

Bees are vital to Australian food security, via their role as crop pollinators. They are of course, also the source of our honey industry! We work on a range of projects that aim to benefit Australian bees and the industries that rely on them. Current projects include efforts to foster a sustainable national genetic improvement program using innovative breeding technologies, and so transform the performance of honey bees in Australia. It will focus simultaneously on traits of importance to beekeepers, horticulture and broadacre industries dependent on honey bee pollination.

We are also working on ways to: estimate the density of feral honey bee populations in Australia, improve propogation techniques for Tetragonula stingless bees, and protect Australian bees from invasive pests such as Varroa.

Find more details see our For Industry page.


All organisms coexist alongside an assortment of microbial hitchhikers. They span the spectrum from pathogeneic to beneficial, and contribute to the health, behaviour, reproduction and evolution of their host. We aim to understand host-parasite dynamics between honey bees, Varroa mites and viruses, and to understand the change in viral landscape that occurs when honey bees are infected with mites. We use RNA sequencing and in-hive experiments to investigate the dynamics of viral evolution, transmission, and resistance in honey bees.

We also study the coevolution of hosts and their brood parasites. Brood parasites lay their eggs in the nests of other individuals (facultative parasitism) or other species (obligate parasitism), after which the host pays the costs of parental care. We investigate the evolution and ecology of brood parasitism in both bees (e.g. egg-laying by workers in non-natal nests), and birds (e.g. cuckoos and cowbirds).

Conflict and Cooperation

Honeybees are an ideal model system to study how societies suppress selfish behaviour by individuals. We study the European honeybee Apis mellifera, a selected ‘anarchistic’ line in which the majority of the workers lay eggs in the presence of a queen, and the Cape honeybee (A. m. capensis) whose workers can clone themselves via thelytokous parthenogenesis. The Cape honeybee also provides us with the unique opportunity to investigate the costs and benefits of sexual reproduction as a lineage of this amazing bee has been reproducing asexually for more than 10 years.

Just as societies are rife with potential conflicts, genomes within individuals are in conflict with each other. We study two types of genomic conflict: conflict between paternal and maternal genomes and intergenomic conflict between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes.

Within an insect worker, paternal and maternal genomes can be in conflict because genes inherited from the father benefit when his daughter-worker produces her own offspring, while worker-reproduction is against the interest of the maternal genome. We have worked on how queens and drones may make epigenetic modifications to their genomes to manipulate the behaviour of their worker offspring.

Genetics and Genomics

Bees are fantastic systems for investigating a range of questions in evolutionary genetics. For example, we use the Cape honeybee to explore the genetic basis of thelytokous parthenogenesis, a unique reproductive behaviour among honey bees.

Honey bees are also an excellent model system for understanding how invasive populations evolve and adapt in their new environments. Often such invasive populations evolve rapidly, despite severe population bottlenecks during founder events that would be expected to reduce genetic variation, increase inbreeding depression and decrease adaptive potential. For this work, we use the Asian honey bee (Apis  cerana) which is invasive in Far North Queensland and other parts of the Austral-Pacific.

Genomic information can also help us to understand the evolution and biology of beneficial and pest insects. We are involved in multiple genome sequencing projects including characterising the genomes of native stingless bees, and sequencing the genomes of three invasive wasp species (Vespula spp.). These projects will contribute to our understanding of the evolution of eusociality in different social insect lineages, and also provide avenues to investigate modern genetic techniques for targeted pest control strategies.

We also apply genetic and genomic tools to understand virus evolution in bees, comparative genomics of social bees, and a range of other questions.


Below are select publications from the lab in the last 5 years that highlight our research themes.

A complete list of publications for each group member can be found on our profile tabs (see People).

Publications marked with an asterisk (*) indicate publications in which a BEE Lab student (Honours or PhD) is first-author.

  • *Garcia Bulle Bueno, F., Garcia Bulle Bueno, B, Buchmann, G., Heard, T., Latty, T., Hosoi, A., Oldroyd, B., Gloag, R. (2022) Males are capable of long distance dispersal in a social bee. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, [More Information]
  • *Sun, M., Chapman, N., Raffiudin, R., Putra, R., Roberts, J., Widjaya, C., Buchmann, G., Holmes, M., Gloag, R., Loss of mitochondrial diversity in invasive populations of Asian honey bees (Apis cerana) in the Austral-Pacific. Austral Entomology [More Information]
  • *Norton, A., Remnant, E., Tom, J., Buchmann, G., Blacquiere, T., Beekman, M. (2021). Adaptation to vector-based transmission in a honeybee virus. Journal of Animal Ecology, 90(10), 2254-2267. [More Information]
  • *Hagan, T., Gloag, R. (2021). Founder effects on sex determination systems in invasive social insects. Current Opinion in Insect Science, 46, 31-38. [More Information]
  • *Utaipanon, P., Schaerf, T., Chapman, N., Holmes, M., Oldroyd, B. (2021). Using trapped drones to assess the density of honey bee colonies: a simulation and empirical study to evaluate the accuracy of the method. Ecological Entomology, 46(1), 128-137. [More Information]
  • Remnant, E., Baty, J., Bulgarella, M., Dobelmann, J., Quinn, O., Gruber, M., Lester, P. (2021). A diverse viral community from predatory wasps in their native and invaded range, with a new virus infectious to honey bees. Viruses, 13(8), 1431. [More Information]
  • Cardoso-Junior, C., Yagound, B., Ronai, I., Remnant, E., Hartfelder, K., Oldroyd, B. (2021). DNA methylation is not a driver of gene expression reprogramming in young honey bee workers. Molecular Ecology, 30(19), 4804-4818. [More Information]
  • Yagound, B., Dogantzis, K., Zayed, A., Lim, J., Broekhuyse, P., Remnant, E., Beekman, M., Allsopp, M., Aamidor, S., Dim, O., Buchmann, G., Oldroyd, B. (2020). A Single Gene Causes Thelytokous Parthenogenesis, the Defining Feature of the Cape Honeybee Apis mellifera capensis. Current Biology, 30(12), 2248-2259.e6. [More Information]
  • Oldroyd, B., Yagound, B., Allsopp, M., Holmes, M., Buchmann, G., Zayed, A., Beekman, M. (2021). Adaptive, caste-specific changes to recombination rates in a thelytokous honeybee population. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288(1952), 20210729. [More Information]
  • *Ding, G., Hasselmann, M., Huang, J., Roberts, J., Oldroyd, B., Gloag, R. (2021). Global allele polymorphism indicates a high rate of allele genesis at a locus under balancing selection. Heredity, 126(1), 163-177. [More Information]
  • Chapman, NC, Frost, EA (2021a) Plan Bee: Beekeeper and queen bee breeder surveys 2020. (AgriFutures Australia: Wagga Wagga). [More Information]
  • Chapman, N, Frost, E (2021b) Plan Bee Breeding Manual. (AgriFutures Australia: Wagga Wagga). [More Information]
  • Frost, EA, Chapman, NC, Banks, RG, Hermesch, S (2021) Breeding for improved fertility of honey bees. In ‘Breeding Focus 2021 – Improving Reproduction’, ed S Hermesch, S Dominik, pp. 97-110. (Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit: Armidale). [More Information]
  • Banks, RG, Frost, E, Chapman, N, Boerner, V, Walkom, S, Ferdosi, M (2020) Progressing implementation of genetic selection in Australian honey bees. (AgriFutures Australia: Wagga Wagga). [More Information]
  • *Garcia Bulle Bueno, F., Gloag, R., Latty, T., Ronai, I. (2020). Irreversible sterility of workers and high-volume egg production by queens in the stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria. Journal of Experimental Biology, 223, jeb230599. [More Information]
  • *Norton, A., Remnant, E., Buchmann, G., Beekman, M. (2020). Accumulation and competition amongst deformed wing virus genotypes in naive Australian honeybees provides insight into the increasing global prevalence of genotype B. Frontiers in Microbiology, 11, 1-14. [More Information]
  • *Smith, N., Yagound, B., Remnant, E., Foster, C., Buchmann, G., Allsopp, M., Kent, C., Zayed, A., Rose, S., Lo, K., Ashe, A., Beekman, M., Oldroyd, B., et al (2020). Paternally-biased gene expression follows kin-selected predictions in female honey bee embryos. Molecular Ecology, 29(8), 1523-1533. [More Information]
  • Harrop, T., Guhlin, J., McLaughlin, G., Permina, E., Stockwell, P., Gilligan, J., Le Lec, M., Gruber, M., Quinn, O., Lovegrove, M., Remnant, E., et al (2020). High-Quality assemblies for three invasive social wasps from the vespula genus. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics, 10(10), 3479-3488. [More Information]
  • Yagound, B., Remnant, E., Buchmann, G., Oldroyd, B. (2020). Intergenerational transfer of DNA methylation marks in the honey bee. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(51), 32519-32527. [More Information]
  • *Aamidor, S., Allsopp, M., Reid, R., Beekman, M., Buchmann, G., Wossler, T., Oldroyd, B. (2020). What mechanistic factors affect thelytokous parthenogenesis in Apis mellifera caponises queens? Apidologie, 51(3), 329-341. [More Information]
  • Beekman, M., Oldroyd, B. (2019). Conflict and major transitions – why we need true queens. Current Opinion in Insect Science, 34, 73-79. [More Information]
  • Thorogood, R., Spottiswoode, C., Portugal, S., Gloag, R. (2019). The coevolutionary biology of brood parasitism: a call for integration. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 374(1769), 1-7. [More Information]
  • Gloag, R., Beekman, M. (2019). The brood parasite’s guide to inclusive fitness theory. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 374(1769), 1-7. [More Information]
  • Gloag, R., Christie, J., Ding, G., Stephens, R., Buchmann, G., Oldroyd, B. (2019). Workers’ sons rescue genetic diversity at the sex locus in an invasive honey bee population. Molecular Ecology, 28(7), 1585-1592. [More Information]
  • Remnant, E., Mather, N., Gillard, T., Yagound, B., Beekman, M. (2019). Direct transmission by injection affects competition among RNA viruses in honeybees. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 286(1895), 1-9. [More Information]
  • Beekman, M., Thompson, M., Jusup, M. (2019). Thermodynamic constraints and the evolution of parental provisioning in vertebrates. Behavioral Ecology, 30(3), 583-591. [More Information]
  • Chapman, N., Sheng, J., Lim, J., Malfroy, S., Harpur, B., Zayed, A., Allsopp, M., Rinderer, T., Roberts, J., Remnant, E., Oldroyd, B. (2019). Genetic origins of honey bees (Apis mellifera) on Kangaroo Island and Norfolk Island (Australia) and the Kingdom of Tonga. Apidologie, 50(1), 28-39. [More Information]
  • Gloag, R., Remnant, E., Oldroyd, B. (2019). The frequency of thelytokous parthenogenesis in European-derived Apis mellifera virgin queens. Apidologie, 50(3), 295-303. [More Information]
  • Yagound, B., Smith, N., Buchmann, G., Oldroyd, B., Remnant, E. (2019). Unique DNA Methylation Profiles Are Associated with cis-Variation in Honey Bees. Genome Biology and Evolution, 11(9), 2517-2530. [More Information]
  • *Utaipanon, P., Holmes, M., Chapman, N., Oldroyd, B. (2019). Estimating the density of honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies using trapped drones: area sampled and drone mating flight distance. Apidologie, 50(4), 578-592. [More Information]
  • Chapman, N., Cocenza, R., Blanchard, B., Nguyen, L., Buchmann, G., Oldroyd, B. (2019). Genetic diversity in the progeny of commercial Australian queen honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) produced in autumn and early spring. Journal of Economic Entomology, 112(1), 33-39. [More Information]
  • *Smith, N., Wade, C., Allsopp, M., Harpur, B., Zayed, A., Rose, S., Engelstadter, J., Chapman, N., Yagound, B., Oldroyd, B. (2019). Strikingly high levels of heterozygosity despite 20 years of inbreeding in a clonal honey bee. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 32(2), 144-152. [More Information]
  • Chapman, N., Byatt, M., Cocenza, R., Nguyen, L., Heard, T., Latty, T., Oldroyd, B. (2018). Anthropogenic hive movements are changing the genetic structure of a stingless bee (Tetragonula carbonaria) population along the east coast of Australia. Conservation Genetics, 19(3), 619-627. [More Information]
  • Beekman, M., Oldroyd, B. (2018). Different bees, different needs: how nest-site requirements have shaped the decision-making processes in homeless honeybees (Apis spp.). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 373(1746), 1-9. [More Information]
  • Oldroyd, B., Aamidor, S., Buchmann, G., Allsopp, M., Remnant, E., Kao, F., Reid, R., Beekman, M. (2018). Viable triploid honey bees (Apis mellifera capensis) are reliably produced in the progeny of CO2 narcotised queens. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics, 8(10), 3357-3366. [More Information]
  • Chapman NC & Oldroyd BP (2018). Artificial insemination of honey bee queens: how many mates is enough? AgriFutures Australia Publication 18-076, Canberra, Australia
  • Chapman NC & Oldroyd BP (2018). Mating for queen quality. AgriFutures Australia Publication 18-077, Canberra, Australia
  • Remnant, E., Shi, M., Buchmann, G., Blacquiere, T., Holmes, E., Beekman, M., Ashe, A. (2017). A diverse range of novel RNA viruses in geographically distinct honey bee populations. Journal of Virology, 91(16), e00158-17. [More Information]
  • Gloag, R., Ding, G., Christie, J., Buchmann, G., Beekman, M., Oldroyd, B. (2017). An invasive social insect overcomes genetic load at the sex locus. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 1(1), 1-6. [More Information]
  • Latty, T., Holmes, M., Makinson, J., Beekman, M. (2017). Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) use adaptable transportation networks to track changes in resource quality. Journal of Experimental Biology, 220, 686-694. [More Information]
  • Beekman, M., Jordan, A. (2017). Does the field of animal personality provide any new insights for behavioral ecology? Behavioral Ecology, 28(3), 617-623. [More Information]
  • *Smith, J., Heard, T., Beekman, M., Gloag, R. (2017). Flight range of the Australian stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Austral Entomology, 56(1), 50-53. [More Information]
  • *Christie, J., Beekman, M. (2017). Selective sweeps of mitochondrial DNA can drive the evolution of uniparental inheritance. Evolution, 71(8), 2090-2099. [More Information]
  • *Christie, J., Beekman, M. (2017). Uniparental inheritance promotes adaptive evolution in cytoplasmic genomes. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 34(3), 677-691. [More Information]
  • Chapman, N., Bourgeois, L., Beaman, L., Lim, J., Harpur, B., Zayed, A., Allsopp, M., Rinderer, T., Oldroyd, B. (2017). An abbreviated SNP panel for ancestry assignment of honeybees (Apis mellifera). Apidologie, 48(6), 776-783. [More Information]
  • *Ding, G., Xu, H., Oldroyd, B., Gloag, R. (2017). Extreme polyandry aids the establishment of invasive populations of a social insect. Heredity, 119(5), 381-387. [More Information]