Spider venom pesticide offers hope for bees

Scientists believe the discovery could provide a bee-friendly alternative to neonicotinoid pesticides

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA new pesticide, created using spider venom and chemicals from snowdrop plants appears to be harmless to honeybees, a study has concluded.

The formula, called Hv1a/GNA, is toxic to a number of key insect pests but shows little sign of damage to honeybee survival rates or key brain functions such as learning and memory.

And it seems that honeybee larvae are able to break the chemical down in their gut, keeping them safe from any harmful effects.

Scientists hope that it could provide one safe alternative to neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been implicated in honeybee declines in recent years.

“Our findings suggest that Hv1a/GNA is unlikely to cause any detrimental effects on honeybees,” said Professor Angharad Gatehouse of Newcastle University, who supervised the project.

“Previous studies have already shown that it is safe for higher animals, which means it has real potential as a pesticide and offers us a safe alternative to some of those currently on the market.”

The chemical fusion is made using the toxic venom of the Australian funnel web spider and plant protein from snowdrops. In its pure form, the venom is one of the most toxic in the world, and can be deadly to humans.

Read more: http://positivenews.org.uk/2014/environment/16603/spider-venom-pesticide-offers-hope-bees/