Location: Chemistry Research Unit
Title: Multitrophic interactions between insects, fungi and plants: Using naturally produced chemicals to solve an invasive species problem Authors
Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 26, 2009
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The beekeeping industry is critical to many agricultural crops. Recently, an invasive pest, the Small Hive Beetle, was introduced into North America. Beetles invade hives feed on pollen, bee brood, and ruin honey. Thus, the beetle has had a dramatic effect on the $14 billion/year apiculture and pollination industries in the US. In social insects, such as honeybees, colony defense is associated with a sting and mass attack, which are fueled by the release of alarm pheromones. We have discovered that in the host-parasite interaction involving the honeybee and the small hive beetle the honeybee’s alarm pheromones serve as an indicator to the beetle of the presence of the host. Further, the beetle is a vector of a yeast species that grows on pollen in hives and produces these same honey bee alarm pheromones. This optimizes recognition of bee hosts and of conspecifics, while minimizing the cost of production of pheromones by the beetle. Thus, the honey-beetle-fungus association provides a tritrophic fitness advantage to the beetle in host environments that favor growth of the fungus, which in turn, facilitates attraction of more beetles to the hive for mating, and to eject the bees from the hive to make more food available to the next generation of the beetle. European bees, being less responsive to alarm pheromones and less aggressive in repelling intruders than the original host of the beetle, African honeybees, fail to recognize the beetle invasion until it is too late to avoid colony collapse. Using this knowledge we have developed effective monitoring and control programs for the beetle using traps baited with the yeast which produces the attractants. This provides the first demonstration of the use of multitrophic level semiochemical communication in insects to control invasive species.