Distinguished Services Medal: Dr Eva Rademacher from the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, received a golden medal at the 64th annual meeting of the Association of the German Bee Research Institutes. With this award, the German Beekeeper Association (Deutscher Imkerbund e.V.) honored her special efforts to find effective control methods for the parasitic Varroa mite, which is weakening honey bee colonies in many countries. The ceremony concluded the first day of the conference in Celle, Germany, where about 200 scientists, beekeepers and other stakeholders met from 14-16 March, 2017 to exchange the most recent findings in bee health research. On the first day, experts focused on topics in ecology, including wild bees, insect pollination and bee nutrition, as well as topics regarding sustainable agriculture, including the usage of plant protection products.
There was more reason for celebration at the event: the 90th Anniversary of the German Bee Institute in Celle, affirming the wealth of knowledge and experience in the area of bee health. In the evening of the first day, Christian Meyer, Minister for Nutrition, Agriculture and Consumer Protection in Lower Saxony, gave the opening speech, emphasizing the importance of supporting honey bees in his state in northwestern Germany. Furthermore, Professor Dr Eberhardt Haunhorst, president at the Lower Saxony Sate Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (LAVES) and host and organizer of this years event, reflected upon the current situation and future of bee research, followed by representatives from the bee institutes and beekeeper associations.
Marion Zaworra spoke about detoxification enzymes in honey bees.
The second and third day of the program focused among other topics on research related to bee products such as wax and honey. Experts also exchanged recent findings with regard to honey bee genetics and breeding methodologies as well as the physiology and behavior of bees. “There was an active dialogue between all participants, especially during the breaks between the presentations,” reports Peter Trodtfeld, bee expert and beekeeper at the Bayer Bee Care Center, one of few industry representatives at the bee health conference. “As a partner that is developing new bee health and crop protection products, it is important for us to stay in the loop of current research,” he went on to say.
The expert discourse at the meeting covered highly innovative results in bee research. PhD student, Marion Zaworra, gave a presentation about the detoxification mechanisms of honey bees. She explained how a particular enzyme family is involved in the detoxification of xenobiotics such as certain insecticides. “The findings of our team will contribute to improving bee safety in agriculture. Knowing the detoxification mechanism will help facilitate the development of new ‘bee-friendly’ crop protection products,” she explains. Since 2014, Zaworra has been conducting research in the Department of Pest Control at Bayer as a PhD candidate from the University of Bonn, in Germany. “This was the only presentation on this topic, and it was great to see the interest of the audience who asked many questions and gave positive feedback on our work,” says Zaworra.
Furthermore, Bayer’s post-doctoral researcher, Dr Gillian Lee Hertlein, talked about resistance mechanisms of the Varroa mite against a class of insecticides known as pyrethroids. If beekeepers don’t rotate their synthetic products for Varroa treatment, these pests might become resistant against the treatment. Luckily, an initial monitoring study hints that resistance is not widespread in Germany. Bayer also presented its Varroa Gate (PolyVar® yellow), a tool that has just been authorized for marketing in Germany to combat Varroa mites more efficiently, and for which further European country marketing authorizations are expected this year.
Still, the Varroa mite was just one of the many bee health discussions at the conference. Beyond this, experts focused on several other global factors that can negatively impact bee health, including bee pests like the Small Hive Beetle and diseases such as American Foulbrood. Trodtfeld appreciated the depth of research presented: “All discussions were based on scientific knowledge rather than on emotional arguments.” He is convinced that this conference once again helped to strengthen the bond between science and industry, which in close collaboration are working to find and develop new solutions to improve bee health.
Find out more about Marion Zaworra’s research work: “On the Hunt for Enzymes”