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Florida A&M Student Wins Regional Award for Her Discovery in Small Hive Beetle Control

Florida A&M Master’s student Saundra Wheeler will receive a Friends of Southern IPM Graduate Student award on April 8 at the 17th Symposium of the Association of 1890 Research Directors in Jacksonville, FL for her work with small hive beetle control in honeybee colonies.

Since it was first identified in 1998, the small hive beetle (SHB) has caused over an estimated $3 million loss of honeybee colonies in Florida, and entomologists like Saundra Wheeler have been working to find ways control this invasive pest. The small hive beetle can be found throughout the United States, most recently in Hawaii. These beetles present serious threats to apiculture and ultimately to consumers, due to their high reproduction potential, ability to spread rapidly, and ability to hibernate in honey bee colonies and vector disease.

As a high performing scholar and researcher, Wheeler, a Master’s student at Florida A&M University, began reviewing the current control methods for the beetle. She examined its resistance to current pesticides and the potential use of biological control agents as an alternative. Laboratory work, field screenings, and molecular identification techniques were used to determine the susceptibility of the beetles to two strains of fungi.

Wheeler sought to find a control method that was sustainable, affordable, and significantly minimized insecticide contamination of honey bee colonies while maximizing control of the pest. She found a strain of fungi that controlled the beetles and maintained hive health, and the results of her research look very promising.

Wheeler was chosen for the Friends of Southern IPM Award over 7 other nominees because her research has already had impacts in the field, in addition to her scholastic achievements in integrated pest management (IPM).

Beekeepers, like James Rish, have benefitted from and felt the major impact of Wheeler’s research. Rish, who has participated in research with Florida A&M University over the years, noticed a drastic reduction in SHB within his colonies as a result of Wheeler’s field trials. Wheeler’s findings could impact the cost of SHB control, making it more affordable for beekeepers.

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