Report for FS09-232
Pollination by Apis mellifera L., our common honey bee, contributes an estimated 186 million dollars per year in increased crop yields to farmers in North Carolina each year. Major NC crops such as apples, cucumbers, and squash all require pollinators to produce fruit of good quality and quantity. Unfortunately, the sustainability of this bee is threatened by an increasing number of invasive pests, particularly the tracheal mite, Varroa mite, and small hive beetle. Studies have shown the parasitic varroa mite to be the most troublesome pest of honey bees. both directly weakening the bees and through the spread of diseases. Many of the chemical controls used on mites have lost their effectiveness and are problematic in that they leave residue in the comb decreasing fecundity in both queen and drones. Some natural alternatives to these chemical treatments exist, but more research needs to be done to find more efficient controls and means of delivery. With the major decline in the number of honey bees available for pollination in recent years, every opportunity to find better controls for honey bee pests should be researched. Metarhizium anisopliae, a fungal pathogen, shows promise as a control agent for both Varroa mites and possibly another recent pest to the south, the small hive beetle. The fungus has had some research done and with the delivery methods used, was shown to be promising but with variable results. We propose to develop a better delivery method for this fungal pathogen. Providing more consistent kills for Varroa mites and Small Hive beetles as well. I will be working with Dr. David Tarpy, Associate Professor and Extension Apiculturist at North Carolina State University, who will provide guidance in the set up of research and control hives. He will help establish the test criteria, measure mite levels, and determine efficacy of the fungus (compared to natural mortality rate, and against control hives with no treatment, and treatment with fuvalinate (Apistan®), and coumaphos (CheckMite+®) brand chemical mite strips). The delivery method I intend to utilize will not subject the conidia of the Metarhizium anisopliae to the inhospitable conditions of the interior of the hive until after application to the host. This should increase infection and mortality of exposed mites. This same fungus has shown to be infective to many beetles as well as mites, and we hope to find it will infect the small hive beetle as well.