The honeybee, Apis mellifera, has a worldwide distribution and is of central importance as a crop pollinator. In fact more than 80 different crops of economic value depend on bee pollination. The value of honeybees has been estimated to be around $6 billion for Australia and US$ 220 billion worldwide. However, we currently face a dramatic worldwide decline in honeybee populations, with serious implications for human crop production and the stability of ecosystems. Although Australia has so far been spared the major losses observed elsewhere, it is merely a question of time before threats such as the varroa mite or Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) hit Australia. Breeding better bees will be crucial in the years to come. The study of transmitted diseases is essential for this endeavor.
In response to these threats, CIBER, the Collaborative Initiative for Bee Researchwas initiated at the University of Western Australia. Coordinated by Prof. Boris Baer, CIBER aims to intensify basic scientific research into honeybee reproduction, immunity and ecology. CIBER is dedicated to facilitating interdisciplinary research on honeybees and providing opportunities for scientists to conduct collaborative research alongside partners from the Australian bee industry. The ultimate goal is to better understand honeybee reproduction and immunity in order to avoid future dramatic losses of Australian honeybees as is occurring elsewhere.