University of Otago biochemistry associate professor Peter
Dearden examines bees at his laboratory at the University
of Otago in Dunedin. Photo by Timothy Brown.
The beekeeping industry is buzzing with the news of
research into developing genuinely bee-friendly insecticides.
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced on
August 28 that University of Otago biochemistry associate
professor Peter Dearden was awarded a grant of $920,000 to
undertake research to develop bee-friendly insecticides.
The funding, part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and
Enterprise's science investment round, would be allocated to
Prof Dearden during the next two years.
The contract would come into effect on October 1.
Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group committee member Michael
Vercoe said he was ''absolutely'' excited by the news.
''By nature an insecticide is bad for bees, full stop,'' Mr
''So anything we can do to reduce the risks to bees in
general has got to be a good thing.''
There were many insecticides available at present which were
supposedly bee-friendly, but were harmful to bees if they
were misused, he said.
So to look for chemicals which were ineffective against bees
was a step in the right direction.
''It's no mean feat if they can achieve it,'' Mr Vercoe said.
''The University of Otago and Peter are pretty innovative.
The way they go about things, they have got the ability to do
it [create bee-friendly insecticides].''
When contacted by Southern Rural Life last week, Prof Dearden
said he hoped to develop the next generation of insecticides,
which would be ''effective against pests, but won't affect
''We aim to develop novel insecticides which will be
broad-range, but bee-friendly,'' he said.
During the next two years, he hoped to develop a system to
screen for chemicals which targeted insects while leaving
honeybees and bumblebees unharmed.
The idea developed out of research he undertook trying to
understand how the honeybee genome worked, he said.
As a species, honeybees had unique genetics, allowing for the
possibility of targeted insecticides.
''We started to identify these things that are a bit weird
[in honeybees] and might make good targets for novel
insecticides,'' Prof Dearden said.
In three or four years, he hoped to have identified chemicals
which would be appropriate for ''novel insecticides'' and
have started to assess commercial interest, he said.
- Timothy Brown