Honeybee Study

The use of Bacillus thuringiensis spp. as a Biological Control for Small Hive Beetles (Aethina tumida) and Wax Moths (Galleria mellonella and Achroia grisella) inside Beehives

Summary: Waxworms which are the larvae of the greater wax moths (Galleria mellonella) and lesser wax moths (Achroia grisella) and small hive beetles (Aethina tumida), are parasites and scavengers of honeybee colonies, Apis mellifera. All three are very destructive to beehives and overall affect bee colony health. While there are numerous mechanical and chemical controls available on the market for these pests, they still are wreaking havoc on the beekeeping industry. Implementing the use of Bacillus thuringiensis species as a biological control for these three pests adds another line of defense against them. The overall goal is to improve honeybee colony health and prevent colonies from absconding or being killed by the infestation. With healthier hives there should be increased profits for beekeepers because damage caused to honey and other products should be reduced or eliminated.

Amount Requested: $15,000

Principal Investigator: Nadia Ruffin, MS

Funding Sources

2019 North Central Farmer/Rancher SARE Grant Recipient- $9,000

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Description of operation:

Quiwi Produce is an urban farm located in Cincinnati, OH that operates on a 7500 sq ft lot and inside a 2000 sq ft warehouse. The local urban farm was started in 2013. Crops that are grown are tomatoes, peppers, greens, squash, lettuce, corn, watermelons, kale and zinnias. Some produce is grown outdoors during the growing season but we also grow produce indoors using hydroponics year round (lettuce, greens, tomatoes, peppers and soon zinnias).

Summary:

Waxworms which are the larvae of the greater wax moths (Galleria mellonella) and lesser wax moths (Achroia grisella) and small hive beetles (Aethina tumida), are parasites and scavengers of honeybee colonies, Apis mellifera. All three are very destructive to beehives and overall affect bee colony health. While there are numerous mechanical and chemical controls available on the market for these pests, they still are wreaking havoc on the beekeeping industry. Implementing the use of Bacillus thuringiensis species as a biological control for these three pests adds another line of defense against them. The overall goal is to improve honeybee colony health and prevent colonies from absconding or being killed by the infestation. With healthier hives there should be increased profits for beekeepers because damage caused to honey and other products should be reduced or eliminated.Project Objectives:

  1. Identify if Bacillus thuringiensis species can be used as biological controls against waxworms and small hive beetles.
  2. Develop a youth beekeeping entomology club.
  3. Share findings in workshops and via social media (youtube, instagram and facebook).

Research

In-vitro Waxworms 2019

The purpose of this project was to test Bacillus thuringiensis spp. (Bt) effectiveness again waxworms and hive beetles living in beehives. The first part of the project was to test which two caterpillar specific Bt spp would be effective for the larvae of the greater wax moths (Galleria mellonella). Initially B. thuringiensis, var. aizawai, B. thuringiensis var. kurstaki were going to be used. After consulting with the EPA to determine if this project would be environmentally safe, it was determined that B. thuringiensis, var. aizawai could be toxic to honeybees so was not used for the experiment.   To test the effectiveness of B. thuringiensis var. kurstaki  on waxworms, a container of 50 (Galleria mellonella) waxworms was purchased from Petsmart. Frozen honeycomb from one of my older hives was used as the food source for waxworms in this trial.

The Hives

There were a total of 7 hives setup to be used in this projects. The hives were to be treated in the following manner:

Hive NumberTreatment
1control (no Bt)
2control (no Bt)
3control (no Bt)
4Bt waxworms
5Bt beetles
6Bt waxworms and beetles
7Bt waxworms and beetles

Educational & Outreach Activities

The outreach that I conducted was a career day at local school on May 16, 2019. During that event I interacted with almost 200 youth teaching them about beekeeping, entomology and agriculture. While they were not farmers, ranchers and agricultural professionals, the purpose of the event was to introduce the youth to STEM fields that are not popular so that they may pursue those fields when they get older.

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