Honeybees: the devastating effect of the parasitic mite Varroa

The number of honeybee colony losses has been dramatically increasing worldwide since 2006, and no single factor is believed to be the cause for this devastation.

Researchers all over the world have looked the effect of weather conditions, diet, transportation of bees for agricultural practices, pesticides and parasites. Honeybees are vital to our world, and significant work has been conducted to understand and begin to solve the problem of honeybee losses.

Dr Hermann Eberl works with students and collaborators in the School of Environmental Sciences to develop mathematical models to help explain the effect on honeybees of the parasitic mite Varroa and the viruses it carries. In particular, his research group studied the population dynamics of bees, mites and viruses simultaneously to determine the effect this relationship has on bee health.

His research group found that the parasites cannot be fought off by the colony without external varroacide treatment. They analyzed the situation in which a colony might fail suddenly after several years without notable signs of stress and they looked at the effectiveness of disease control methods. The aim of this project is to understand the dynamics that affect honeybee colonies in order to suggest effective strategies to combat honeybee collapse and to promote healthier colonies. This work is currently ongoing with collaborators and students.

A honeybee near a flower

High school students interested in developing the mathematical and statistical skills to tackle a real world problem such as this should consider our Mathematical Science Major, with an Area of Emphasis in Biomathematical Modelling.

Prospective graduate students interested in working with Dr. Eberl should visit his website, or read more about Graduate Studies at Guelph.