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Vita Research Awards help unscramble and combat the current honeybee crisis

A project to develop a new, green bio-control agent to combat the varroa mite that is decimating the world’s honeybee colonies has won the Vita 2009 Research Award. Meantime, the results of the Vita 2007 award have just been released providing further evidence that three viruses, almost certainly induced by the varroa mite, are implicated in honeybee losses across the globe.

The 2009 Vita Research Award is being awarded to a team of researchers at the University of Parma, Italy. They have already discovered several fungi that can kill varroa and their next crucial step, for which Vita has awarded the research prize, is to ensure that the fungi are perfectly safe for bees and will be effective in the warm, humid environment of the hive.

Meanwhile, the results of the 2007 Vita Research Award, just announced, provide important further evidence that three viruses implicated in the demise of honeybee colonies are global rather than regional in distribution. Working in Jordan, Dr Nizar Haddad applied the latest molecular (DNA) techniques to detect honeybee viruses. With the first work of its type in the region, he showed that three of the six main honeybee viruses were widespread in Jordan – and by implication in neighbouring countries. These three viruses – Acute Bee Paralysis Virus, Sac Brood Virus, and Deformed Wing Virus – never before conclusively identified as being widespread in Jordan have been implicated in recent colony deaths in many other parts of the globe.

Jeremy Owen, Sales Director of Vita (Europe) Ltd said: “The biannual international Vita Research award series which we launched in 2005 is exceeding the hopes we had for it. The two completed studies thus far have produced vital information with practical implications for treatment.

“As the largest dedicated honeybee health company in the world, we are eager to foster much-needed new research to combat threats to honeybees. The next award will be in 2011 and I would encourage researchers across the world to consider making an application and to talk to us soon.”

The Vita research award, valued at around Euros 10,000, was launched in 2005 with well-known beekeeper President Viktor Yuschenko of the Ukraine as patron. The first award was made to Dr Alexandros Papachristoforou of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki for his work on chalkbrood control. He discovered that Apiguard, a varroa control product, also had a major inhibitory effect upon chalkbrood and this finding has given beekeepers another weapon in their armoury in fighting chalkbrood which in many parts of the world debilitates and even kills honeybee colonies.

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