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sector_ico_Agrifood_trans Agrifood

Identification of the target sites of a new acaricide against the honey bee parasite, Varroa destructor

  • Project Leaders: Erika Plettner, Leonard Foster
  • Institutions: Simon Fraser University (SFU)
  • Budget: $250000
  • Program/Competition: Pilot Innovation Fund
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2021
  • Status: Active

The mite Varroa destructor feeds on bees at adult and juvenile stages, weakening them and transmitting deadly viral infections. Varroa is the most damaging parasite of honeybees, causing costly losses of colonies during overwintering. Colony replacement costs are approximately $400M (CAD) per year in Canada and the US combined. Additionally, lost pollination and honey harvesting business, and the consequent decreased fruit crops, amount to respective loss of approx. $9B and $600B annually.

Beekeepers treat colonies against Varroa mites every year when mite levels rise in the spring and fall. However, there are only five widely used treatment options. One of these is showing signs of resistance, and two treatments are corrosive and difficult to apply. Effective integrated pest management (IPM) schemes are necessary to prevent the onset of resistance in mites and maintain good mite control, and these require the utilization of various treatment options in rotation. Problems with the currently available treatments have limited the implementation of IPM, often resulting in consecutive and repeated use of the same treatment option.

Researchers from SFU have discovered a new acaricide against Varroa that does not visibly harm the bees and has no adverse effects in vertebrates in several tests done so far. This project aims to discover the mode of actions of this new compound which is key to register with health authorities. In collaboration with researchers at UBC, this search will make use of proteomics tools to identify the molecular target. This study further advances the development of this new pesticide with the potential to be a gamechanger in the beekeeping industry to manage Varroa mite infestations in bees.