SFU researchers test new honeybee protection

By Times Chronicle Staff

Simon Fraser University (SFU) researchers have found a new chemical compound that could help honeybees around the world fight deadly mite infestations.

According to the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA), an estimated 45.5 percent of overwintering honeybee colonies in Canada died last winter.

This represents the largest loss of colonies in the country in the past 20 years, according to preliminary data collected by the CAPA that surveyed commercial beekeepers across the country.

BC fared slightly better with about 32 percent of honeybee colonies in the province dying.

While a number of factors can lead to bee deaths, including poor queens, weak colonies in the fall, weather and starvation, the main factor behind the losses is the varroa mite, a parasitic bug that attacks and feeds bees.

The mites feed on the larva and pupa of bees and grow into adult mites that also feed on the body fat of adult bees.

“Given the magnitude of the problem, it is global,” said Erika Plettner, SFU professor of chemistry. “In Canada, we record colony losses every year from various causes during the hibernation, but the weakness caused by the mites certainly plays a role.”

SFU researchers and beekeeping members led by Plettner are currently testing the potential treatment in apiaries in British Columbia and Alberta.

“We’ve discovered a substance that can paralyze and eventually kill the mites, and it doesn’t seem to have too much of an effect on the bees,” he said. crusher.

“These field trials are very important to demonstrate efficacy in the colonies and are the next milestone towards actual use of the treatment,” she says.

At one of the test sites in South Surrey, researchers are conducting a randomized trial of the chemical codenamed 3C36, involving 40 colonies of bees exposed to the Varroa mite.

Varroa mites, a deadly parasite of honeybees, are a worldwide problem for beekeepers.

Once they infiltrate a colony, the pests feed on bees, taking bites, injuring them and making them vulnerable to secondary diseases.

If they can fester, the mites can wipe out entire colonies during the winter months.

Although a limited number of chemical treatments currently exist, mites are beginning to show signs of resistance, so developing new treatments is imperative to increase the mix of options available to protect bee colonies in the long term.

“Like many discoveries, this was serendipity,” Plettner says. “We discovered this substance as part of a large screen that we made to repel moth larvae. It was the best we found, so when we started working with bees, it made sense to test this substance on the mites.”

So far, Plettner says the results are encouraging.

Researchers place sticky sheets with a grid under the test colonies and regularly search all materials that fall to the bottom of a beehive.

The grids are then documented and the number of dead mites found in hives are randomly treated with 3C36 compared to those treated with a control substance (one of the currently approved treatments) and those left untreated.

“The adhesive sheets under the cabinets help us take a snapshot of what’s falling down and we can take them back to the lab, put them under a microscope and count them,” Plettner says.

“It’s promising. We notice that our compound does cause a greater mite fall than the control group.”

If the trial data continues to show successful results, Plettner says the next step will be to seek federal approval to consider the compound safe for use and seek commercial licensing partners.

“At the moment, varroa management is a reality in beekeeping. To do this successfully and not lose our tools to resistance – which is just part of evolution – we have to use different tools over the years,” says Plettner.

“Having very sick honeybees is also not good for other insects, as the viral disease that the mite vector can spread. That is why we as beekeepers have a responsibility to ensure that our bees are healthy.”

Endangered bees are subject of Desert Society film and lecture on Saturday

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