New Research Yields Hope For Bee Survival

September 25, 2014
Chemistry professor Erika Plettner's work in the lab has revealed new compounds that can induce damaging ectoparasitic mites to switch their interest from nurse bees and their brood to older worker bees.

The world’s declining bee population may soon get a reprieve thanks to new research by Simon Fraser University chemistry professor Erika Plettner and Victoria Soroker, a researcher at Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization.

They have found a potential method for deterring Varroa desctructor mites, considered one of the most significant threats to bees, from exerting their damaging effects on worker bees that care and feed the all-important queen bee and her brood.

Plettner and Soroker examined several compounds found to be useful in disrupting the mites’ chemosensory organ, looking for ways the mites’ detection systems could be re-programmed to seek older worker bees instead of young “nurse” bees.

Plettner says inducing the ectoparasitic mites to move away from the brood nest and onto older forager bees could mitigate the deleterious effects on nurse bees and their brood.

She says the newly discovered compounds could be used in conjunction with various strategies currently in use, but with fewer side effects on the bees.

The researchers’ new finding, published this month in the journal PLoS ONE, are interesting, says Plettner, because mites are notoriously difficult to control .

“Traditional treatment methods are very labour intensive and often involve compounds that are somewhat toxic to the nurse bees and the brood. Mites have also been shown to develop a resistance to these compounds."