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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Bee Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #432289

Research Project: Integrated Gene-Based Control of Varroa Mites at the USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-21000-277-50-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Jan 15, 2017
End Date: Sep 30, 2017

The objective of this agreement is to reduce the impacts of the honey bee parasitic mite Varroa destructor on honey bees. Varroa mites are the most dangerous parasites for honey bees, and modern techniques and collaborative efforts offer a real chance to reduce or remove this threat. USDA-ARS and USDA-APHIS have partnered extensively to reduce the threats of novel and emergent disease agents on honey bees and other pollinators and Varroa is central to these efforts. This mite serves as a vector for an increasing number of RNA viruses that impact honey bees, leading to bee mortality and colony loss. The USDA-ARS-Bee Research Laboratory (BRL) has assembled a team of six scientists committed to this pest. BRL resources, including extensive opportunities for field work, genetic analyses and microbiological assays are being deployed currently against these mites. This agreement would lead to three new areas of research aimed at mitigating the impacts of Varroa mites. Resources in hand include a robust bioassay system for measuring mite behavior and survival, genetic tests for the abilities of mites to transmit viruses to bees, microbiological resources for identifying and exploiting microbes that attack mites, and complete genome sequences for each of the microbes involve in bee disease. Collaboratively, our goal is an integrated effort using the group’s expertise in honey bees, mite biology, microbes, and genetics. The research will target three distinct objectives: 1) the development of soft chemicals that directly affect mite longevity and viral persistence, 2) Disruption of mite feeding and development and 3) identification and validation of novel fungal biopesticides isolated from native mite populations.

For Goal 1, the focus will be on testing non-volatile products that are generally recognized as being safe (US-FDA GRAS) to determine their impacts on both mites and levels of honey bee infecting viruses. Candidate compounds will be fed to bees in bioassays during February and March, 2017, at which point viral loads will be assayed. Direct tests of acaricides will be carried out using established laboratory bioassays involving Varroa mites. Goal 2 will require progress in laboratory rearing of mites and the establishment of mite physiology and weaknesses during development. Goal 3 will require survey work of healthy and sick mites in order to identify candidate microbes (this has been successful to date for several fungal isolates) followed by direct bioassays as above.