Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Pesticides help bees!

There is a lot going on in the modern day bee hive!
The Varroa mite, sometimes called the vampire mite, has been one of the reasons why Honey bees have been in decline of late.

These mites enter hives and suck the blood from the adult bees and from the larvae, and in this way they transport a lot of different pathogens, virus, bacteria and fungus to the bees. Also, 20 Varroa mites can turn into 1,200 in a matter of months and you only need one mite to kill more or less a whole colony.

One of the most effective treatments for removing the mites from a hive is the use of selective pyrethroid insecticides that are highly toxic to the mites, but safe for use with bees. The intensive use of these compounds over the years has led to widespread resistance in Varroa populations, greatly reducing their effectiveness.

However, Rothamsted Research scientists have now identified the genetic change that causes this resistance in UK mite populations. They have also developed a diagnostic test that allows rapid monitoring of the frequency of resistant mites within individual infected bee hives. The test provides an accurate measure of resistance within Varroa-infected hives before treatment and hence it enables informed decisions of the likely effectiveness of the available treatments.

Therefore, by carefully monitoring the distribution and frequency of the mutation in local Varroa populations using the diagnostic test, it should be possible to develop a pro-active resistance management programme. Such a programme could involve rotation of different products (including pyrethroids) aimed at maintaining a more effective control of this highly damaging pest.

I find it somewhat ironic that whereas on the one hand the big chemical companies such as Bayer and Syngenta are being attacked from all quarters over their Neonicotinoid products, which have now been temporarily banned in Europe because of the potential harm to bees, on the other hand these same companies are helping to fight this pesky little mite to save our honey bee colonies.
Funny old world isn't it?  

1 comment:

  1. A fascinating viewpoint and I admit, as a life-long naturalist I am often one of the first to blame the big boys for their supposed dirty deeds. It clearly pays to gather up all the evidence to hand and to hear both sides of the debate, especially when scientific research is at the heart of it. Thanks for updating us Peter and I suspect this topic will run and run.