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Biological control of the parasite Varroa destructor in Apis mellifera hives

Grant number: 18/08221-0
Support Opportunities:Research Grants - Innovative Research in Small Business - PIPE
Duration: May 01, 2019 - January 31, 2020
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Ecology - Applied Ecology
Principal Investigator:Larissa Galante Elias
Grantee:Larissa Galante Elias
Host Company:Decoy Tecnologia em Controle de Pragas S/A
CNAE: Criação de animais não especificados anteriormente
Atividades de apoio à agricultura
Pesquisa e desenvolvimento experimental em ciências físicas e naturais
City: Ribeirão Preto
Pesquisadores principais:
Lucas Garcia von Zuben ; Tatiana Magalhães ; Túlio Marcos Nunes
Associated researchers:Cristiano Menezes ; Filipe Jose Dal Bo de Andrade
Associated grant(s):19/23976-0 - Biological control of the parasite Varroa destructor in Apis mellifera hives, AP.PIPE
Associated scholarship(s):19/12290-0 - Biological control of the parasite Varroa destructor in Apis mellifera hives, BP.TT
19/10970-3 - Biological control of the parasite Varroa destructor in Apis mellifera hives, BP.PIPE


Insect pollination is essential to the production of more than 70% of the food crops in the world. Among pollinating insects with the highest economic importance, bees stand out, especially the honeybee Apis mellifera L.. Honeybee pollination services contribute more than US$200 billion annualy to the world economy. However, pollination services have been afected lately by a worldwide fenomena that has led to the loss of Apis mellifera colonies (Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD). Infestations by the parasitic mite Varroa destructor seem to play an important role in recent colony colapses, mainly in North America and Europe, being one of the biggest threats to beekeeping. The mites parasitise honeybee pupae, feeding on their fat body. They also transmit some of the most important viruses responsible for damaging bees, such as the "deformed wing virus" (DWV). Parasitised bees have lower weight upon emergence and lower percentage of nest return. Since Varroa destructor has developed resistance to most of the chemical treatments traditionally used by beekeepers, the use of biological agents to control infestations has become a promising alternative. The mite is sensitive to most entomopathogenic fungi, and previous experiments by other researcherd have already shown some positive results. In this context, we propose the use of acaropathogenic fungi Hirsutella and Neozigytes as control agents aimig to minimise the chances of negative effects over honeybees, as these fungi specifically affect mites, with no effect on insects. The final product to be developed consists of a formulation containing conidia of acaropathogenic fungi in emulsifiable oil. This formulation should be lethal to V. destructor but innocuous to Apis mellifera. Throughout the development of the project we will: (1) select fungi isolates that have high mortality rates over Varroa destructor in laboratory; (2)Artificially select fungi isolates that develop in the environmental conditions of the bee colony; (3) optimise the product formulation so that conidia remain viable over time; (4) test the product safety on honeybees in the field. The availability of fungi-based biological control to beekeepers will allow sustainable control of V. destructor, avoiding colony collapses, enhancing the potencial for pollination, and production of honey, wax and propollis. The long-term viability of conidia within the formulation will enable infestation control with no chemical contamination to the colony or the environment. All these benefits could reduce the costs and enhance beekeepers profits, by improving pollination efficiency and production of colony products. (AU)

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