Bee protection: researchers are developing active ingredient against the Varroa mite

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Heureka! "It probably sounded through the halls of the University of Hohenheim, when the research team led by Dr. Peter Rosenkranz, head of the State Institute for Bee Science, realized what they had just discovered.For years, the parasitic Varroa mite decimated the bee colonies It could only be kept in check by elaborate disinfection measures of beehives with formic acid.The new active ingredient lithium chloride is intended to remedy this situation - and without any side effects for bee or man.

Active ingredient against Varroa mite discovered by accident

Together with the biotechnology start-up "SiTOOLs Biotech" from Planegg near Munich, the researchers pursued ways to eliminate single gene components with the help of ribonucleic acids (RNA). It was planned to mix the bees with RNA fragments in the feed, which the mites absorb when sucking blood. They should turn off vital genes in the parasite's metabolism and kill them. In control experiments with non-harmful RNA fragments, they then observed an unexpected reaction: "Something in our gene mix did not get the mites," Dr. Rosary. After two more years of research, the desired result was finally achieved: The lithium chloride used to isolate the RNA fragments proved to be effective against the Varroa mite, although the researchers did not have it on screen at all as an active ingredient.

Varroa mite on the back of a bee

The Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) has attached itself to the back of the bee. Here it is inaccessible to the insect and weakens it increasingly

Lithium chloride is inexpensive and easy to administer

Although there is still no approval for the new drug and no long-term results on how the lithium chloride affects the bees. So far, however, no recognizable side effects have occurred and also in the honey no residues could be detected. The best thing about the new drug is that it's not only cheap and easy to make. It is also administered to bees simply dissolved in sugar water. The local beekeepers can therefore - at least what concerns the Varroa mite - finally breathe.
The extensive results of the study in English can be found here.

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