Location: Bee Research Laboratory
Project Number: 8042-21000-290-09-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement
Start Date: Mar 1, 2018
End Date: Feb 28, 2019
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 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. Since a large impact of mites on bees is the transmission of viruses, a second key objective will be to assess mite-vectored viruses and mites in the mainland US and Puerto Rico (the potential source of mite-resistant honey bees). Personnel at the USDA-ARS who will participate in this program pending support include BRL scientists, as well as collaborators USDA-ARS Administrator’s postdoctoral fellow), (BRL full-time volunteer and recently retired tick expert from Old Dominion University) and (US DOE ORISE Fellow at the BRL). This work will include a collaborative project with University Puerto Rico. Our goal is an integrated effort using the group’s expertise in honey bees, mite biology, microbes, and genetics. We 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 both known acaricides and non-volatile products that are generally recognized as being safe (US-FDA GRAS) to determine their impacts on mites and viruses infecting bees. Candidate compounds will be fed to bees in bioassays during summer, 2018, after which 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. Goal 4 will require collection of resilient bees in Puerto Rico followed by the propagation of these bees and collection for viral and bee genetic assays.