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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Bee Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #439221

Research Project: Natural Products for Honey Bee Immunity & Disease Resistance

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-21000-291-029-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2020
End Date: Jun 30, 2024

Losses to parasites and pathogens result in substantial costs to the honey bee industry. Colony loss and replacement rates for honey bees exceed 40% annually, costing beekeepers $250M/year and beekeepers spend >$20M annually on disease prevention and mitigation. Natural products show promise for enhancing honey bee immunity, and this project will systematically test the most promising natural products in cup cages, parasite cell culture, and field colonies, with the aim of identifying, validating, and ultimately registering and producing new disease treatments for bee health.

Safe and inexpensive products for honey bee disease will require identification, testing, registration, and licensing prior to sale to beekeepers. This project aims to streamline this process for natural products, as below. Objective 1 requires compiling existing information on candidate molecules using research reviews, inferences from medical or veterinary treatments, and a review of chemical stability and solubility. With approved funding this will continue this during Year 1, cross-referencing these molecules with dozens of studies showing a positive physiological impact on mammalian or insect systems either as a direct anti-viral or anti-parasitic compound or indirectly via impacts on host immunity, inflammation or cell communication. Objectives 2-5 will involve USDA-ARS laboratory tests of 50+ candidates using honey bee cage (cup) studies involving field-caught worker bees, to assess the ability of treatments to reduce natural disease loads, and to assess possible toxicity. These objectives will also invoke a successful mark-recapture strategy used to measure impacts of compound exposure on bee longevity and health. These paired strategies offer the best method for identifying strong candidates for safe and effective products. Objective 6 will involve a directed screen of compounds against the gut parasite Lotmaria (Ft. Lewis College), and the remaining objectives will finalize the impacts of the most promising treatments.