University of Adelaide researchers are introducing a “flying doctor” method of employing bees as preventive medicine. Project leader and bee researcher Katja Hogendoorn, Ph.D., says, “All commercial cherry growers spray during flowering to control the later development of cherry brown rot.
Instead of spraying fungicide, we’re using bees to deliver a biological control agent right to the flowers, where it’s needed.” The innovative delivery works via entomovectoring.
This is a new technique for Australia, with potential application in many horticultural industries. The biological control agent contains spores of a parasitic fungus that prevents another fungus that causes the brown rot from colonizing the flower. Future applications of the small, winged medics are expected to become available for disease control in almonds, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears and stone fruit.