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Varroa Mite Top Research Priority at Almond Board
The Varroa mite is a key factor in honey bee health decline.
Honey bee resistance to the Varroa mite (pictured here on a
honey bee’s thorax) is one of many research efforts
underway. Photo by Chris Heintz, Project Apis m.

The Almond Board’s Gabriele Ludwig and Bob Curtis attended a national summit on the Varroa mite in February that assembled leading researchers and experts on Varroa mite and honey bee health. The summit focused on Varroa mite biology; breeding Varroa resistance in bees; the impact of honey bee nutrition on tolerance to Varroa mite and diseases associated with Varroa; mite control options and miticide resistance management; and outreach efforts for current and new Varroa mite tools and management.

Stakeholders, including beekeepers and grower groups, had requested the summit as a follow-up to an October 2012 research summit on honey bee health. That summit emphasized the importance of the Varroa mite as a factor in honey bee health decline. Varroa destructor not only is a parasite of honey bees as it sucks blood, it is also the key vector of various honey bee viral diseases.

Beekeepers have only a few options for mite
treatments. One popular method is to use
essential oils, which act as miticides. The oils
are added to grease patties like Crisco (top
photo) and feed patties (wrapped in blue).
Photos by Meg Ribotto, Projet Apis m.

At the Varroa summit, participants said there was a critical need to develop and register additional Varroa miticides, as well as implement and extend Varroa IPM to beekeepers, including monitoring, treatment thresholds and miticide resistance management. To do this requires a better understanding of basic Varroa biology.

The Almond Board is focusing its pollination research resources on five priorities, including Varroa mite, that have been identified as major threats, and on opportunities related to honey bee health and almond pollination.

Other priorities include:

  • Improving honey bee nutrition and forage;
  • Improving Extension outreach and tech transfer teams to get the latest information on honey bee health and pest management in the hands of beekeepers;
  • Balancing the need for pest control materials, both in crops and in the hive, with possible effects on honey bee health; and
  • Improving coordination and collaboration among stakeholders on honey bee health solutions.

Current Almond Board–funded research is looking at the efficacy and economics of Varroa mite treatments, breeding Varroa resistance into honey bees, and enhancing tech transfer teams for the beekeeping industry. Proposed projects will attempt to quantify Varroa resistance to miticides and look at new chemistries for Varroa control.

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