CRISPR and the fight against varroa...a silver bullet?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Dayton, OH
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    175

    Default CRISPR and the fight against varroa...a silver bullet?

    So I am no biologist, just a beekeeper, but I have been reading about the (relatively) new gene editing technology known as CRISPR. It seems that we may be on the verge of a genetics revolution that we're just starting to understand.

    Below is a link that discusses current plans to use CRISPR to eliminate Lyme disease on Nantucket Island. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/08/s...nantucket.html

    It occurs to me that this could be the silver bullet that might also be the answer to varroa.

    I am interested in other's thoughts as to the wisdom (or lack there of) or editing the genes of varroa or Apis mellifera to tip the scales of the battle. It no longer appears to be a question of whether we could do this, rather the question now appears to be whether we should and how. I think the question of whether we mess with nature is much less an issue since varroa are an invasive species both to North America and honeybees themselves. In other words, one could argue, we would just be restoring the "natural order."

    It seems to me that biologists could edit the genes of either species. Randy Oliver's most recent American Bee Journal (Feb 2017) article discusses all the latent genes in honeybees that might be used to combat varroa. For example, honeybee genes that promote grooming behavior, hygiene, or varroa-victim "suicide" where the infected bee flees the nest to prevent varroa reproduction. Or varroa genes could be edited to change their reproductive habits, change their ability to locate a host or each other, or make them more detectable by honeybees (e.g. give them an off odor). I could also see a situation where we just breed a bunch of sterile varroa and dump them into our hives to out-breed the fetrile mites--as they have talked about doing with releases of sterile mosquitoes to combat Zika.

    I am just trying to start a discussion here. Does anyone know of any honeybee labs working on this question? Is there funding for this research? Am I crazy?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    West Jordan, UT, USA
    Posts
    1,113

    Default Re: CRISPR and the fight against varroa...a silver bullet?

    There is a lot of room for investigation in that area, IMO. However, genetic engineering is not highly favored among some people, even if it works.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    KC, MO, USA
    Posts
    4,646

    Default Re: CRISPR and the fight against varroa...a silver bullet?

    The bees have already done it. We keep stock that can't survive, continually introduce these genes across the country while breeding and displacing the genes that can survive.

    Meanwhile Monsanto is trying it in their lab and newly acquired beelogics. They will paten a new bee soon or later and charge everyone to use it's genes, they will "save the bees" and make tons of new jobs...

    There is a difference in the bees we keep and the one that can survive;

    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/what...nd-feral-bees/

    We don't need a lab to make a better bee. We just need to open our eyes.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Chardon, Ohio
    Posts
    689

    Default Re: CRISPR and the fight against varroa...a silver bullet?

    In my opinion the target to modify is the mites, not the bees. Will it be done? Yes it will. It will be easy and cheap enough high school kids could be moving genes as high school science projects in another 15 or so years. When it gets close to that point we will pass laws that require a federal license to buy the needed kits I think. We could do it today to mites and eliminate or greatly reduce mite problems if it worked. As there is no financial incentive to do the work I do not see a company doing it very soon. We know what needs to be done. It would be much harder to modify bees than mites to get an effective control. Varroa are a brand new species created in the last 100 years so extinction of them should not be a big negative from a biodiversity standpoint.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    KC, MO, USA
    Posts
    4,646

    Default Re: CRISPR and the fight against varroa...a silver bullet?

    May be near impossible to genetically modify a closed genetic clonal spices, and if you could you would need to modify every mite on the planet at the same time;

    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/art...l.pone.0135103

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