22 Dec 2010

Researchers unveil new tool to kill varroa mites

9:00 pm on 22 December 2010

A way of killing the varroa mites that attack honeybees has been unveiled by researchers in Britain.

The treatment is at an early experimental stage but could be developed into an anti-varroa medicine.

The mites have virtually wiped out wild honeybee populations in New Zealand and other countries, and have been linked to a worldwide decline in these important pollinating insects.

The scientists, from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, say the genetic treatment targets the immune system of the varroa destructor mites, tricking them into self-destructing.

Dr Giles Budge of the National Bee Unit in York, who was also involved in the study, says the mites operates a particularly "severe form of parasitism".

The human equivalent, he says, would be having "an organism on your back that's about the size of a dinner plate, which creates a hole through which it can feed and through which its family can feed.

"The hole doesn't seal up - they drink blood through it and inject viruses into it."