Dr. Olav Rueppell (Biology) received a nearly $1 million grant from the USDA NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative for the project “Identification Of Brood Signals That Induce Hygienic Behavior In Honey Bees To Develop And Implement Novel Strategies For Varroa Control And Sustainable Apiculture.”
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are important pollinators, critical for sustainable agriculture and food security. Declining health has lead to unprecedented honey bee colony losses. The ectoparasitic Varroa destructor mite plays a central role in the health decline and novel control solutions are needed. Hygienic behavior that honey bee workers exhibit toward mite-infected brood is a natural defense mechanism that provides Varroa resistance when sufficiently enhanced. Thus, in response to the program area priority “New Frontiers in Pollinator Health: From Research to Application”, the researchers propose to investigate the stimuli that stimulate hygienic behavior, specifically its initial stage the uncapping of brood cells, and combine our research with extension activities to promote selective breeding for hygienic behavior as a sustainable apicultural practice. Using bioassay-guided fractionation, they will systematically study the Varroa-induced changes in surface chemicals of honey bee brood that trigger hygienic uncapping behavior.
For information transfer on a broader scale, they will develop education materials for beekeepers and queen breeders, and train existing extension specialists in the use of our newly developed tools and strategies to complement ongoing programs to help the honey bee industry in the U.S. and elsewhere.