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  • Kara Maddox

WSU to use new refrigerators in study to help save honeybees

This article was originally published by Fruit Growers News on April 8, 2019. You can find it here.

The Washington State University (WSU) honeybee research team will advance their study of refrigeration to fight varroa mites that harm honey bees with help from two new grants.

First, the WSU team received a combined $200,000 from the Washington State Tree Fruit Research Commission and the Almond Board of California to purchase three 20-foot cargo containers, which will be retrofitted with equipment to control the internal temperatures and atmospheric gasses.

Next, the team took those grants and leveraged them to receive a $500,000 USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) grant that will start in August, when the refrigerated containers will be up and running.

“Our preliminary research has been really promising related to the benefits of using refrigeration storage at different times of the year, so this is an expansion to help save the bees on a large scale,” said Brandon Hopkins, assistant research professor in WSU’s Department of Entomology.

The refrigeration centers around fighting varroa destructor mites, one of the leading causes of colony collapse disorder in honeybees.

The USDA grant includes three distinct parts:

-Using carbon dioxide to kill mites in the winter.

-Doing brood breaks, which stops varroa reproduction and makes them more susceptible to miticides. Here’s more info about early work on brood breaks.

-Real-world application of these techniques with commercial beekeepers.

“We know the mites die at a level of carbon dioxide that doesn’t harm bees,” Hopkins said. “But we’ve never done experiments on a scale that approaches what professional beekeepers have.”

In the past, the team has used small refrigerators that couldn’t accommodate full colonies. Preliminary studies used micro-colonies. The new containers will allow them to work on a scale that’s closer to real-world, accommodating around 80 full-size colonies each.

Read the full article here.

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