A new weapon could help save bees from a destructive parasite

The Canadian beekeeping community is experiencing historic bee mortality this year, particularly due to parasitic mites. If this new treatment against Varroa destructor bears fruit, it could help beekeepers with devastated crops, while limiting food insecurity.

Bee pollination is indeed important for the cultivation of blueberries, cranberries, pears and apples, among others.

Parasitic mites weaken bees, they can contribute to the collapse of complete hivessays Simon Fraser University chemistry professor Erika Plettner, who is working on the new treatment.

What is the Varroa destructor?

the Varroa destructor is a species of parasitic mite native to Southeast Asia. Like a tick, it feeds by biting bees. When they attack them, they transmit viruses that can decimate a colony in just a few weeks.

The parasite spread with the transport of agricultural products. He came to Canada from the United States. Only Australia is spared for the moment.

The chemical compound that Erika Plettner uses in her research, 3c36, is a happy accident. While researching to develop a weapon to ward off crop moths, she discovered that the compound can also paralyze and kill parasitic mites that lodge in beehives.

Professor Ericka Plattner hopes that the research of the next few years will lead to the development of the compound which could result in the use of this new weapon against Varroa destructor by beekeepers.

Photo: Simon Fraser University

Erika Plettner, who is herself a beekeeper in her spare time, will delve further into the effects of the compound with the aim of developing a treatment that could be used by beekeepers. For the moment, all we know is that it kills the parasites after a few hours.she says.

She and her team have also received a research grant from Genome British-Columbia to collect data and learn more about the possible effects of the compound on parasitic mites, but also on bees as such.

Follow compound fluorescent

For the next step, Erika Plettner wants to collect thousands of parasitic mites, so she appeals to beekeepers to contribute to this collection. The parasites will be frozen, and in the fall, experiments will be conducted to better understand how the compound attaches to the body. One could potentially stain the compound with fluorescent dyes to track it. This search will last until September 2023.

The scholarship will allow to study more precisely the molecular mechanism behind the reaction, we will want to understand what is the protein which attaches to the chemical compound and which causes these symptomsadds the researcher.

Diversify weapons

The eventual use of the chemical compound will diversify the treatments that exist against the parasitic mites, because they seem for the moment to develop a resistance to the main treatment used by beekeepers.

Among the other five existing treatments, two are corrosive and difficult to use, according to Erika Plettner. The compound will make it possible to rotate treatments.

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