This 66th edition of the convention was special. In the past, the community dealt mainly with honey bee topics but this year saw a shift in focus, says Bayer bee health expert, Peter Trodtfeld: “With biodiversity and pollinator decline very much in the public eye, the fate of wild bees has taken center stage, resulting in many bee scientific papers. For instance, one of the presentations at the event looked into the competition for food between honey bees and wild bees in natural reserves or agricultural areas. It emphasized the need to improve habitats for wild bee species. In addition, the scientists looked at a series of other factors that can impact and determine the health and fate of the different bee species: from molecular genetics and bee breeding, to ecology and bee behavior.
And another trend became obvious this year, says Bayer researcher Dr. Nina Exeler: “For a long time it seemed that the bee topic was aging – alongside its scientists. This year, we saw a new generation of young researchers present the results of their projects. It’s fascinating to see how these young scientists are passionate about bees, biodiversity and pollinator protection. For me, that was the most heartwarming insight this year.”
New ideas for fighting Varroa and diseases
One of the main culprits, if not the biggest enemy of the Western Honey Bee is a small mite called Varroa destructor. So a new approach in the struggle to control the Varroa mite which has now appeared on the horizon was welcomed. Several bee researchers shared the first positive results using lithium chloride under field conditions, which shows a promising and successful control of the destructive mite. Using beekeeping measures, such as the caging of queens, beekeepers need to ensure that the honey-bee colonies are temporarily broodless in order to avoid damage to the colony brood by the test concentrations of lithium chloride used. Further research is required to determine if this novel concept is viable though.
The development of a new application technology for formic acid, on the other hand, is gaining traction. The active ingredient was the focus of several research projects in 2018, and this year’s results with the new application method show that the Formipenser® could be an interesting and safe-to-use option for beekeepers – even in regions outside the temperate climate zone (see box).
Also on the horizon are novel approaches in the field of molecular genetics. Bee scientists are looking at optimizing breeding or gaining new insights which might enable them to deal more effectively with bee diseases and viruses.
Two Bayer researchers presented their projects in the poster sessions: Dr. Nina Exeler and Anja Quambusch highlighted the new bee safety test methods, developed to assess bumblebee and solitary bee larvae development. These test methods support the development of new and pollinator-safe crop protection products and help meet future registration authorities requirements. The scientists visiting the Bayer poster stand welcomed the new expertise that will help them in their own research and they were highly interested in the team’s tips and recommendations. Nina Exeler was pleased about the positive feedback: “It became quite clear that the scientists trust us to develop solid methods. They appreciate that the industry takes bee health and biodiversity seriously and that we have put a lot of hard work into bee safety testing to ensure the safe use of pesticides in agriculture.”
Smart dispenser for formic acid
Formic acid is an effective tool against the Varroa mite but it comes with a challenge: The presently-available formic acid evaporators only work effectively in an ambient temperature range of 20 to 25° Celsius. If it is colder, the effect is insufficient to control the mites; with warmer external temperatures it can damage the bees. At the Frankfurt convention, the Ruhr-University of Bochum presented its answer to the challenge: By utilizing the constant brood temperature of 35°C that is maintained by bees in the beehive, the Formipenser® ensures effective and controlled evaporation of the formic acid during the application phase.
Application is perfectly simple: You open the beehive, place the dispenser inside and that’s it. No need to come back for a refill. And, the beekeeper can look forward to removing the dead mites.