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Chemical miticides are used routinely in honey bee colonies worldwide as treatment for the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, but there have been very few long-term colony-level field studies of the impacts of miticides on the bees themselves. Lab-based studies with individual bees or bees in small groups have highlighted many negative effects of miticides on bee behaviour and physiology; hence, there is an urgent need to better understand the consequences of miticides on honey bee colonies in an apicultural setting. Here we compared effects of commercial treatments of the miticides tau-fluvalinate and thymol, and controls, on honey bee colonies and bee foraging behaviour over five months, from autumn through winter in Sydney, Australia. Since V. destructor does not occur in Sydney, in this study, we could isolate the direct effects of the miticides from indirect effects resulting from reduced mite load. We found the autumn treatment of either miticide caused no significant change in bee adult or brood population or size of food stores. The average temperature in the thymol group differed from the temperature in the control group and was lower during winter. Neither miticide reduced bee longevity. Tau-fluvalinate caused bees to start foraging earlier in life and perform shorter trips, but no other effects on foraging behaviour were documented. To conclude, in Sydney, Australia, limited negative effects of autumn thymol or tau-fluvalinate treatments were observed on bees or bee colony performance.
- continuous weight measurement
- Varroa destructor
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