A Europe-Wide Experiment for Assessing the Impact of Genotype-Environment Interactions on the Vitality and Performance of Honey Bee Colonies: Experimental Design and Trait Evaluation
An international experiment to estimate the importance of genotype-environment interactions on vitality and performance of honey bees and on colony losses was run between July 2009 and March 2012. Altogether 621 bee colonies, involving 16 different genetic origins of European honey bees, were tested in 21 locations spread in 11 countries. The genetic strains belonged to the subspecies A. m. carnica, A. m. ligustica, A. m. macedonica, A. m. mellifera, A. m. siciliana. At each location, the local strain of bees was tested together with at least two "foreign" origins, with a minimum starting number of 10 colonies per origin. The common test protocol for all the colonies took into account colony survival, bee population in spring, summer and autumn, honey production, pollen collection, swarming, gentleness, hygienic behaviour, Varroa destructor infestation, Nosema spp. infection and viruses. Data collection was performed according to uniform methods. No chemical treatments against Varroa or other diseases were applied during the experiment. This article describes the details of the experiment set-up and the work protocol.