“The beekeeping industry has a great need for alternatives,” says Margarita López-Uribe, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, who was not involved in the fungal research. “So it is very exciting to see that there is potential for a nonchemical treatment.”
Varroa destructor has plagued beekeepers and their bees for decades. Some researchers have hoped to combat them with biopesticides, microbes that naturally target specific insect pests. Compared with traditional chemical pesticides, they are less toxic to other animals, including humans. One biopesticide, the common soil fungus Metarhizium acridum, has been used against locusts in recent years. Some 2 decades ago, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and elsewhere began to study related species that can kill the varroa mite.