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Durham University

Department of Biosciences


Publication details for Dr Elaine Fitches

Powell, M.E., Bradish, H.M., Cao, M., Makinson, R., Brown, A.P., Gatehouse, J.A. & Fitches, E.C. (2020). Demonstrating the potential of a novel spider venom based biopesticide for target-specific control of the small hive beetle, a serious pest of the European honey bee. Journal of Pest Science 93(1): 391-402.

Author(s) from Durham


The parasitic small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) feeds on pollen, honey and brood of the European honey bee (Apis mellifera); establishment in North America and Australia has resulted in severe economic damage to the apiculture industry. We report potential for the “in hive” use of a novel biopesticide that is toxic to this invasive beetle pest but harmless to honey bees.

Constructs encoding the spider venom neurotoxin ω-hexatoxin-Hv1a (Hv1a) linked to the N- or C-terminus of snowdrop lectin (GNA) were used to produce recombinant Hv1a/GNA and GNA/Hv1a fusion proteins. Both were similarly toxic to beetles by injection (respective LD50 s 1.5 and 0.9 nmoles/g larvae) whereas no effects on adult honey bee survival were observed at injection doses of > 200 nmoles/g insect. When fed to A. tumida larvae, GNA/Hv1a was significantly more effective than Hv1a/GNA (LC50 s of 0.52 and 1.14 mg/ml diet, respectively) whereas both proteins were similarly toxic to adults. Results suggested that the reduced efficacy of Hv1a/GNA against larvae was attributable to differences in the susceptibility of the fusion proteins to cleavage by gut serine proteases. In laboratory assays A. tumida larval survival was significantly reduced when brood, inoculated with eggs, was treated with GNA/Hv1a.