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Fungus Could Help Stem Worldwide Threat to Bees

July 31, 2008 10:49 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Researchers are recommending fungal foot baths for bees as a nonchemical way to kill a parasitic mite that is threatening bee populations worldwide.

30-Second Summary

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Scientists at the University of Warwick in England say naturally occurring fungi may help fight the varroa mite, a honeybee parasite suspected of contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder.

The disorder causes massive hive die-offs and has led to an alarming decline in bee populations worldwide in recent years. Earlier this year, a survey found that 36.1 percent of America’s commercial beehives have been lost since last year.

The varroa mite, or Varroa destructor, feeds on bees’ circulatory fluid and also weakens hives by activating and transmitting other diseases. The mites are currently kept under control with chemical pesticides, but there is concern that they are developing resistance to the chemicals.

University of Warwick scientists have identified four different types of fungi that kill the varroa, and are exploring different methods to distribute the protective fungi thoughout bee hives—testing everything from powder sprays to fungal foot baths placed at the entrances to hives.

Researchers examined 50 different strains of fungi to find those best at attacking the varroa parasite, identifying four that best matched their criteria, according to University of Warwick researcher Dave Chandler.

“We needed to find fungi that were effective killers of varroa, had a low impact on the bees, and worked in the warm and dry conditions typically found in bee hives,” Dr. Chandler told Science Daily.

Headline Link: ‘Fungus Foot Baths Could Save Bees’

Background: ‘Honeybee Death Rates on the Rise’

Reference: Varroa mites

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