Spider Venom Inspires Bee-Safe Pesticide

Corey Barnes/Flickr/Creative Commons

Spider Venom Inspires Bee-Safe Pesticide

Thomas is a news intern at Science.

A new pesticide could be the bee’s knees. Honey bees (Apis mellifera, pictured) pollinate 90% of all U.S. flowering crops, but in recent years their numbers have drastically dwindled. Accumulating evidence implicates several commonly used insecticides in honey bee deaths, sparking a growing demand for bee-safe alternatives. Online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a team of researchers reports the creation of a bee-friendly pesticide produced by fusing Australian funnel-web spider (Hadronyche versuta) venom with snowdrop flower (Galanthus nivalis) proteins. The team says its toxin selectively attacks the central nervous systems of common agricultural pests, such as beetles and aphids, while leaving honey bees unharmed. After exposing bees to their new pesticide for 7 days, the researchers found no detrimental effects on learning or survival. Even when the team directly injected the pesticide into the honey bees, only 17% died within 48 hours. The team next plans to test the toxin’s effect on other beneficial pollinators, such as bumblebees and parasitic wasps.

Posted in Biology, Plants & Animals