Research Feature: Micheal Light

Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) are the most agriculturally beneficial eusocial insects for crop pollination. Chemical communication is critical in maintaining colony structure and activity, which may be exploited by some parasites. Varroa destructor (Anderson and Trueman) (hereafter Varroa) is regarded as one of the biggest threats to apiculture, blamed for annual colony mortalities of over 30%. My research tests whether previously identified odourants affect Varroa behaviour and investigating those that elicit minimal response in honey bees. Volatile collection involving in- and ex-situ techniques is being used to identify individual compounds and sensitivity of live Varroa through gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and gas chromatography-electrotarsal detection, respectively. Furthermore, volatile components confirmed as Varroa-active will be investigated for behavioral valence through behavioural assays and electro-tarsograms. In addition, this study will compare methods for in-situ capture of hive odours. Results from this research can then be applied to colony-wide testing of active odourants in developing effective alternative methods for Varroa control as well as developing methods for future research exploring chemical ecology of social insects.