ENTOMOVECTORING bees spreading fungicide

The flying doctors:

Bee’s, science organics and agriculture. This combination is using honey bees to sustainably control infections in fruit trees.  Entomovectoring is a process where the honey bees effectively replaces the role of fungicide spraying. The bees are forced to collect biological control agents from a dispenser tray attached to the exit of their hives. Being the efficient little wonder workers, these bees visit the flowering plants infected by the fungal spores; botrytis cinerea and monilinia species. These are diseases that cause fungi enter the fruit at flowering time and remain dormant until the fruit ripens. In South Australia entomovectoring is combating diseases in a range of summer fruit crops including almonds and grapes.

The health of the honey bees exposed to these chemicals is minimized by the relatively short duration of the program. In return fruit growers are encouraged to take hives onto their property. The honey bee health has been studied by scientists from the University of Adelaide. There has been no effect on bee numbers or effect on the brood produced during this process.

The biological control agent is registered for organic use. Targeted delivery system of the honey bees reduces the use of spray, spray drift and run off. It reduces the use of heavy machinery fuel and water use. Variables such as weather cannot completely replace pesticide use.

So how does this system work? The hive is delivered by beekeepers keen to place hives in prime nectar producing areas. The dispenser trays are fitted and the farmer pays for and administers the biological control agents. These spores are sprinkled onto the tray daily by the farmer fitted out with protective veil and gloves. The bees exit the hive through the anti fungal powder in the dispenser and carry it to the flower. How do the bees re enter the hive without this same powder coming into the hive? The design has two separate entrances with the hive exit being one way only.

For more information contact Dr Katja Hogendoorn from the University of Adelaide.

Dr Hogendoorn is vocal on the vital importance of pollinators to our food production, and the ‘stupidity’ of the widespread use of insecticides.

Bees are a keystone species in our ecosystems and crucial to the health and proliferation of numerous other organisms, including us. Here’s an update on the science behind the issues confronting our bee populations worldwide and the future they face: