WELINGTON, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand scientists are devising a cheap tool for beekeepers to protect bee colonies without using pesticides.
Tiny lasers stationed at honey bees' hives will disable and kill varroa mites in experiments aimed at defeating the parasitic pest ravaging bee colonies around the world, according to a study by Francesco Merola and Cather Simpson at the University of Auckland's Photon Factory on Monday.
Varroa mites (Varroa destructor) cling to bees to enter hives but tiny lasers stationed at beehive entrances can target the mites and prevent them from infesting and critically damaging the hive, said the scientists in a collaborative project with New Zealand's Plant and Food Research.
"Our goal is to free bees to do their important agricultural work by allowing beehives to thrive again, to be more resilient, healthy homes for bees," Merola said.
Varroa mites feed on honey bees, larvae and pupae, spread disease, and can cause bee colonies to collapse, Merola said, adding as bees have a critical role as crop pollinators, Varroa mites represent a global threat to food security.
Merola will test how different laser blasts affect bees and mites, working in a containment laboratory at a Plant and Food Research facility in Hamilton.
In a five-year plan, the research and development facility is slated to take two years, followed by commercialization, he said, adding challenges will include creating a device easy to fit to the hive which bees are happy to move through.
Advanced optical spectroscopy methods are key techniques the science team will use to understand the structures of key biochemical components in the bees and mites, including proteins, lipids, and pigments.
Simpson called it "an ambitious project which will make a difference all over the world." ■