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Honeybee mites: using lethal RNAi gene knockdown to control pests

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10 June 2014, 10.30am: Free
at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA
for scientists, students and other interested parties
Bee on a raspberry flower

Dr Ewan Campbell of the University of Aberdeen will give a seminar at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee entitled "Honeybee mites: using lethal RNAi gene knockdown to control pests" or "Honeybee health: a mitey problem". The seminar will be broadcast live to the Aberdeen site.


Varroa destructor is an invasive ectoparasitic mite of honeybees that is now endemic in nearly all countries where husbandry of honeybees occurs. The recent spread of Varroa, coupled with its ability to act as a vector for pathogenic viruses, has resulted in a synergistic effect that has been heavily implicated in a global decline in honeybee health. Varroa and associated pathogens have led to higher than average winter losses in many regions, resulting in increased effort and money spent on combating infestations and replacing stock. Typically, hives infested with Varroa are unlikely to survive without intervention for more than two years.

Integrated pest management (IPM) strategies can significantly reduce Varroa burden but the control of Varroa still remains largely based on chemical acaricides to which there is now widespread resistance. RNA interference is used widely as a tool for investigating gene function in many taxa but it has become increasingly apparent that RNAi has the potential itself to manage pests and parasites. My lab was the first to demonstrate RNAi in Varroa and my current research entails discovering lethal target genes and testing these in laboratory and small scale field trials to develop a long term solution to the Varroa pest.


Dr Ewan Campbell's research addresses the use of knockdown RNAi techniques to understand issues as distinct as osmoregulation in earthworms, arthropod aquaporins in development, pharmacological antagonists of plasmodium (malaria), amoebic gill disease in salmon, and honeybee health at the University of Aberdeen and the University of Adelaide.

Dr Campbell's current research at the University of Aberdeen aims to help manage or control the major pest of honeybees, Varroa destructor. Varroa mites have only recently jumped species from the Asian honeybee, with which it happily co-exists, to the European honeybee, Apis mellifera that is a major pollinator of crops and also supplies us with honey. Varroa weakens honeybee colonies by spreading disease, most notably deformed wing virus, and by feeding on developing larvae and pupae.

Dr Campbell is currently developing RNA interference as a means of targeting Varroa specific genes with the overall goal of an applied solution to this economically devastating pest. In addition he is surveying Scotland for the mite, Acarapis woodii, which lives in the trachea of honeybees, and will develop a rapid molecular approach to diagnose infestations.

The seminar is being hosted by Dr Alison Bennett.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.