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Could funnelweb spiders and snowdrops save honeybees?



June 9, 2014
Funnelweb spider Photo Doug Beckers

Funnelweb spider Photo Doug Beckers

Australia’s deadly funnelweb spiders plus cold-climate snowdrops could be the unlikely sources of a new bee-saving range of plant pesticides.

Researchers at UK Newcastle University combined the deadly toxin found in funnelweb spider venom with a protein from the snowdrop plant to create a pesticide that bees can tolerate. Spider venom usually has to be injected into an insect to kill it but by using fusion protein technology, in which the insecticidal peptide is linked to a plant lectin ‘carrier’ protein, it allows proteins such as spider venom toxins to act as orally delivered biopesticides.

Only a small number of bees were affected when fed large, acute and chronic doses of the new biopesticide compound. Importantly, it does not affect the bee’s memory or navigational ability, unlike pesticides in the neonicotinoid range, many of which have been banned or temporarily suspended in Europe and some USA states.

The biopesticide is also not toxic to humans.

Read the full study publication at Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences

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