Lunchlecture: Arming bacteria to save the honeybee

The abundance and diversity of our food relies heavily on honeybee pollination. Unfortunately, the parasitic mite Varroa destructor weakens bee colonies, causing increased honey bee mortality in the western world over the past 30 years. Joining the iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine) competition, the 2016 WUR iGEM team aimed to save the bees by killing Varroa using bacteria inside beehives. We worked to develop a bacterium that targets mites, leaving bees, humans and ecosystems unaffected. The aim of the project was to create the first effective method to combine specificity, ease of use, safety through bio-containment, and the iGEM open source character to save the honeybee!