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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Baton Rouge, Louisiana » Honey Bee Lab » Research » Research Project #445303

Research Project: Developing and Deploying Novel Tools to Support Varroa Mite IPM in Specialty Crop Pollinating Honey Bee Colonies

Location: Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research

Project Number: 6050-21000-016-031-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2023
End Date: Sep 14, 2027

Social Science Research Objective: Identify varroa management programs implemented by beekeepers leading to reduced colony loss and evaluate beekeeper motivations when managing for varroa. Hypotheses: (1) Common elements of varroa monitoring and control programs that are related to reduced colony losses and strong colonies for specialty crop pollination will be identified through structured interviews with beekeepers and field testing of treatment efficacy and varroa resistance (2) Common elements of beekeeper decision-making processes related to varroa control, including economic constraints and source of management guidance, will be identified. Natural Science Research Objective: Determine prevalence and mechanisms of varroa resistance to varroacides and develop novel resistance-breaking tools for effectively controlling varroa mites in honey bee colonies. Hypotheses: (1) Miticide resistance monitoring will establish that currently registered miticides have reduced effectiveness at controlling varroa populations, (2) Existing miticides with current registration for other uses, natural products with reduced registration burdens, and beekeeper-identified products will be safe and effective against varroa resistant to existing varroacides (3) Compounds can be successfully formulated and delivered to colonies for cost-effective and consistent control of varroa. Outreach Objective: Disseminate practical best practices for varroa IPM that are cost effective, and overcome identified barriers to adoption and reduce colony losses. Hypothesis: Beekeepers will exhibit behavior change and adopt IPM-based varroa monitoring and control programs, including newly developed varroacides, if they are demonstrated to be (1) effective at reducing colony losses, (2) economically reasonable, (3) presented by trusted beekeepers or through other trusted sources, and (4) can be tailored to their specific needs.

This proposal looks to identify what practices beekeepers use for effective Varroa control, what the needs are for new miticides due to resistance and registered materials, and what are the barriers to adoption and what methods can be used to disseminate data-based recommendations. Resistance monitoring will be performed through a network of collaborators across the country using 2 corroborating methods to measure miticide resistance to formulated products and technical materials. Supplies will be procured and distributed so that all materials are standardized and uniform. Resistance monitoring will also be performed using molecular diagnostic tests that are fully developed, in the initial stages of development, and those tests that will need to be developed. A molecular diagnostic test will be developed for performing genomic analyses on the resistant Varroa to identify mutations associated with resistance. Finally, it will be determined if miticide presence in the wax determines if resistance will develop. This will be done by comparing bioassay results to miticide types and amounts detected in beeswax.