Distribution of Apis mellifera bees at frames. Apiary from Mr. Erwin Fisher located in Pirque.

Western Honey Bee: Mapuche sacred tree seeks to fight the Varroa destructor mite

Dra. Marcela Gatica Andrades

Report: Dra. Marcela Gatica Andrades

9, April 2018

When we have a bee flying around we usually get scared because we are afraid from getting bitten. However, bees are not our enemies but our friends and they urgently need our protection. Do you know what could happen if they extinct? We would not just lose another specie, but a big part of our current access to the food we consume. Importantly, bees are the main pollinators of our food.  

Chilean honey represents one of the main exportation products, where honey exportation is even bigger than meat. This is just a sample of what we learned by talking to Dr. Patricio Vásquez-Quitralwho has just started to work as a researcher at Universidad Autónoma de Chile.  

[SPANISH] “...Honey is the main Chilean livestock exportation product. Chile exports more honey than sheep meat, beef, chicken meat and pork, in terms of money


Dr. Patricio Vásquez-Quitral.

Patricio got all his academic training at Universidad de Chilewhere he graduated as Veterinarian and then started his way in research through the Doctoral Program in Agricultural, Forestry and Livestock & Veterinary Science. He currently works at the lab of the Principal Investigators Doctors Hector Carrasco and Andrés Olea, at the Applied Chemical Science Institute (ICQA). They have studied the use Canelo tree cortex-derived compounds to control fungal infections in plantations, including the Botrytris fungus, which attacks the table grapes vines. 

In this context Patricio aims to determine whether these compounds could be also used to control infections that affect bees. He is specifically interested on the Varroa destructor mite, one of the main parasites for bees and that produces a disease known as Varroasis. Despite that extracts from Mint plant and Eucalyptus tree have shown properties against these mites, there is no knowledge about Canelo.

Why do we need to look for more compounds to control this mite? 

This tree is a Chilean native specie that is quite important for the Mapuche indigenous community since is their sacred tree. From a scientific view, this tree is quite interesting since it has been observed that it resists quite low environmental temperatures. Thus, it has been studied what are the properties that give Canelo these capacities.

Why Canelo should be a focus of study?

Although there are compounds currently used in Chile and approved by the Agriculture and Livestock Service, they are just two and there are already some mites developing resistance, so their effectiveness is decreasing

Thank to his project, Patricio has the great opportunity to do some field work and have a direct interaction with bees. If you want to check some pictures from this part of his work, look at beehives and bees, we invite you to click at this photo reportHelping bees to fight back Varroa destructor mites

Patricio will develop this project during three years thank to Chilean Government funding (Concurso Postdoctoral, FONDECYT 2018).

[SPANISH] “(Bees) First of all, because they are the main pollinators of the food we consume. So if bees get to disappear, food availability is going to decrease worldwide. Eventually some foods could disappear, like almonds and other species that are exclusively pollinated by bees”

[SPANISH] “And that is science, working based on knowledge provided by others

In deep...
Varroa destructor

During his Project Patricio will analyze whether Canelo tree cortex-derived extracts can be used to control the Varroa destructor miteFirst of all, he is going to do some experiments to make sure that these extracts are innocuous for bees. Then he will develop a mechanism to incorporate the active compounds coming from these extracts at solid substrates, which will allow for a direct use at beehives at countryside.

Dra. Marcela Gatica Andrades
Reportage: Dra. Marcela Gatica Andrades

9, April 2018