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Ongoing project

Protecting pollinators from pesticides: Developing safer, selective pesticides targeting Varroa mite and small hive beetle hormone receptors (PH20003)

Key research provider: The University of Sydney

What's it all about?

This investment is investigating safer, environmentally-friendly pesticides that target the hormone receptors of varroa mite and small hive beetle without negatively impacting honey bees.

The hormone ecdysone regulates many major developmental processes in insects and other arthropods. Ecdysone acts by binding to the ecdysone receptor, a protein that controls the expression of thousands of genes underlying insect reproduction, development and behaviour.

Ecdysone receptors (ECRs) vary subtly in structure between insect groups. This variation provides an opportunity for selective pesticide design, with the aim of developing molecules that selectively bind to and interfere with pest receptors. Furthermore, these receptors are absent from vertebrates, making pesticides that target ECRs particularly safe for farm workers, consumers of agricultural products and other beneficial animals in the environment.

The research team will apply their knowledge of ecdysone receptor biology and biochemistry to discover compounds that they can develop into a commercial pesticide that is selectively toxic to Varroa mite and small hive beetle but safe for bees and humans.