New pesticide made from spider venom is bee-friendly, researchers say

UK researchers has created a new bio-pesticide that they claim is highly toxic to a number of key insect pests yet safe for honeybees.

Image: Alexander Stokes
Image: Alexander Stokes

Combining a natural toxin from the venom of an Australian funnel web spider and snowdrop lectin, the pesticide could provide an alternative to chemical pesticides including neonicotinoids which have been claimed as a factor in bee decline.

Feeding acute and chronic doses to honeybees, well beyond field dose levels, the team found it had only a very slight effect on the bees' survival and no measurable effect at all on their learning and memory.

This research, involving academics from Newcastle and Durham Universities and the Food and Environment Research Agency, was funded by the UK's innovation agency the Technology Strategy Board.

One of the researchers, Professor Angharad Gatehouse of Newcastle University's School of Biology, said: "There isn't going to be one silver bullet. What we need is an integrated pest management strategy and insect-specific pesticides will be just one part of that."

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


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