Entomopathogenic nematodes as biological control agents of important honey bee pests in Australia
What's it all about?
This investment is testing the efficacy of entomopathogenic nematodes as biological control agents against two significant pests of honey bees in Australia, the small hive beetle and the wax moth, and developing novel biological control options for these pests.
Biological control of pests involves the application of natural enemies of pests such as predators, parasitoids or pathogens. There are currently no predators or parasitoids in Australia that significantly affect small hive beetle and wax moth populations. However, Australian strains of entomopathogens are readily available in nature and could be developed for use as biopesticides.
The research team is:
- Assessing a recently isolated set of new biological control agents (entomopathogens)
- Testing the best performing entomopathogens against small hive beetle and wax moth in the field
- Evaluating the safety of the entomopathogens for applications with honey bees.
This research is testing the efficacy of a large set of entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) as biological control agents against major pests of honey bees in Australia, the small hive beetle (SHB) and the wax moth (greater wax moth GWM and lesser wax moth LWM), and developing novel biological control options for honey bee pests.
The research team have now established laboratory populations for all three honey bee pest species: small hive beetle, greater and lesser wax moth. They have also obtained additional EPN isolates from local soils (bringing our collection to 23 EPN isolates of Heterorhabditis and Steinernema), and have obtained agreement from Ecogrow to also test their commercially available EPN strains for comparisons with the EPN isolates.
Preliminary screening of these isolates has started against small hive beetle by first focusing on the two species for which the most isolates are available, Heterorhabditis indica and Heterorhabditis zealandica. These first experiments were undertaken also with the aim to standardise methodology for small hive beetle for which had previously not undergone any EPN tests (whereas the research team had run such trials for greater wax moth prior to the start of this project; Aryal et al. 2022 BioControl).
These preliminary experiments have been successful so that they are now being expanded for all EPN isolates against all three pest species, in order to allow the selection of EPNs for more focused bioassays.