Varroa destructor serves its name well; it is probably the most dangerous pest of the Western honey bee. For beekeepers who have struggled with this destructive pest over the past 40 years, additional tools cannot come soon enough. Yet finding new approaches to control Varroa and, thus, improve the overall health of honey bees is proving to be a challenge, so beekeepers must rely on the limited tools which are currently available.
This motivated Bayer, Bochum University, and WaldWieseHolz GmbH to put their heads together to find ways of making the existing Varroa treatment products more broadly available. This would extend the tools available for a sustainable system for Varroa control, based on integrated pest management (IPM). IPM is particularly important for tackling pests that have evolved resistance to individual synthetic pesticides. A collaborative project has been set up around formic acid, an organic acid which, despite being widely-used to treat against Varroa in honey bee colonies, is not easy to handle - especially in countries with high temperatures during the time of application - due to its toxic vapor. The idea is to develop a dispenser which is effective, safe and allows reliable and convenient application of formic acid vapor for Varroa mite control in beehives, independent of the prevailing external climatic conditions.
Test apparatus to determine the daily consumption of formic acid
Feasibility studies to test the dispenser are up and running, and the researchers involved, including Professor Wolfgang Kirchner from Bochum University, Helge Adleff from WaldWieseHolz GmbH and various colleagues from the Bayer Bee Care Center and Höfchen estate field trial station came together last week at Höfchen near Burscheid, Germany to discuss the latest findings. ‘The results look sunny, in contrast to the weather that day, and give cause for optimism in moving forward’, says Peter Trodtfeld, Bee Health Expert and beekeeper at the Bayer Bee Care Center in Germany, and coordinator of this project for Bayer. The researchers intend to discuss next steps this Fall, as further results from the field trials come in.