Scientists’ discovery raises hopes of stopping destroyers of honey bees

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SCOTTISH scientists have made a potentially important breakthrough in the battle to combat the bloodsucking parasite which is devastating honey bee populations across the globe.

The varroa destructor mite has wiped out honey bee colonies since the pest first spread from bees in Asia to Europe and America in the mid 1980s.

But it was revealed yesterday that researchers at Aberdeen University and the National Bee Unit, part of the Food and Environment Research Agency, have now worked out how to “knock down” genes, killing the parasitic mite by turning its natural defences against itself.

Until now the research has been confined to the laboratory. But now the study team has been awarded £250,000 in funding to help develop a product that could help beekeepers in tackling the biggest killer of honey bees worldwide. The funding has been made by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Vita (Europe) Ltd, the world’s largest dedicated supplier of honeybee health products.

Dr Alan Bowman, who is leading the research, said: “Honey bees are incredibly important because of their pollination of flowers of both wild and farmed plants. But their numbers are seriously declining

“There is an urgent need to develop a varroa-specific, environmentally friendly treatment or some method of overcoming the varroa’s resistance mechanism to existing treatments and that’s what we are now working towards.”