Hirsutella thompsonii and Metarhizium anisopliae as potential microbial control agents of Varroa destructor, a honey bee parasite.
The potential of Hirsutella thompsonii Fisher and Metarhizium anisopliae (Metschinkoff) as biological control agents of the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor Anderson and Trueman was evaluated in the laboratory and in observation hives. In the laboratory, time required for 90% cumulative mortality of mites (LT90) was 4.16 (3.98-4.42) days for H. thompsonii and 5.85 (5.48-7.43) days for M. anisopliae at 1.1×103 conidia mm-2. At a temperature (34±1 °C) similar to that of the broodnest in a honey bee colony, Apis mellifera L., H. thompsonii [LC90=9.90×101 (5.86-19.35) conidia mm-2 at Day 7] and M. anisopliae [LC90=7.13×103 (2.80-23.45) conidia mm-2 at Day 7] both showed significant virulence against V. destructor. The applications of H. thompsonii to observation hives resulted in significant mortality of mites, and reduction of the number of mites per bee 21 and 42 days post-treatments. The treatments did not significantly affect the mite population in sealed brood. However, the fungus must have persisted because infected mites were still observed [82.97±(0.6)%] 42 days post-treatment. In addition, the fungus was found to sporulate on the host. A small percentage [2.86±(0.2)%] of dead mites found in the control hives also showed fungal infection, suggesting that adult bees drifted between hives and disseminated the fungus. H. thompsonii was harmless to the honey bees at the concentrations applied and did not have any deleterious effects on the fecundity of the queens. Microbial control with fungal pathogens provides promising new avenues for control of V. destructor and could be a useful component of an integrated pest management program for the honey bee industry.