ESA Annual Meetings Online Program

The role of honey hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as a natural defense mechanism against small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) infestations

Monday, November 14, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, First Floor (Reno-Sparks Convention Center)
Lydia L. McCormick , Department of Environmental Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Berry J. Brosi , Department of Environmental Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Small hive beetle (SHB, Aethina tumida) is a devastating pest of honeybee (Apis mellifera) colonies. While various chemical treatments and traps have been employed to control SHB population, it is plausible that honeybees produce natural chemical defenses in their honey. We tested the hypothesis that hydrogen peroxide (H202) which is added to nectar via the enzyme glucose oxidase acts as a stress defense against SHB. Comparative field studies in apiaries from across the southeastern US revealed that honey H202 concentrations were highest in colonies infested by SHB. Controlled laboratory experiments indicated that adult SHB survival decreased up to 63% at honey H202 concentrations of 400-1600 g/ml, an effect that was reversed in controls containing the antioxidant catalase. Moreover, the addition of catalase to control honey samples enhanced SHB survival and reproduction. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that H202 my act as a natural defense mechanism or stress response to SHB. Thus, the molecular regulation of glucose oxidase could be connected to honeybee SHB resistance. Additional experiments are in progress including controlled, time-series field measurements of honey H202 throughout induced SHB infestation..