The highly toxic venom of funnel-web spiders could help protect bees

Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum

Help Support Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.
Jul 18, 2011
Reaction score
sarf london/surrey
Hive Type
Number of Hives
5 hives
/from a recent new scientist article/

Spider venom used to kill pests but not bees

The highly toxic venom of funnel-web spiders could help protect bees (ROBERT VALENTIC/NATUREPL.COM)
ABITE from a funnel-web spider delivers neurotoxins that can kill an adult human in hours, or a child in minutes. Yet they might be our friends in the fight against the small hive beetle, a dangerous new threat to bees.

In southern Africa, where it originates, the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) is a minor pest. African honeybees defend their nests so aggressively that the invader rarely gets a foothold.

Outside Africa, however, nests of European honeybees (Apis mellifera) are often devastated by the beetle and its larvae, which devour the honey, pollen and brood, destroy the combs and sometimes introduce diseases. Some pesticides can kill the beetles, but they would harm the bees as well.

“The nests of European honeybees are often devastated by the small hive beetle and its larvae”
Now Elaine Fitches and her colleagues at the University of Durham, UK, and Fera Science, a firm co-owned by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, think funnel-web spiders may provide the weapon we need to stop the beetles.

Spider venom contains a cocktail of ingredients, and one of the funnel-web’s toxins – Hv1a – is fatal to most insects, including small hive beetles, but seems to have no effect on bees or humans.

The trouble is that Hv1a needs to be injected. If beetles swallow the toxin, it degrades in their gut and has little effect.

So Fitches and her team have bound Hv1a to a molecule found in the spring-flowering common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), which effectively carries it through the gut barrier. In the lab, the team fed this “fusion protein” in a sugar solution to beetles and their larvae.

After two days, the larvae started “writhing”. Within a week, all the larvae and adults were dead. The team also placed beetle eggs on a piece of honeycomb containing bee brood, which was then sprayed with the engineered compound. The honeycomb and bees survived virtually untouched, but most of the new beetle larvae died (Journal of Pest Science,

“I was absolutely chuffed to bits with these results,” Fitches says. ■
Be interesting to see what happens when the spray residue gets into the honey.
An interesting subject for a PHD thesis perhaps but here is no way a pesticide based on a highly toxic spider venom is going to make it into the public domain in food products let alone the danger of escape of millions of funnel-web spiders into the wild.
Last edited:

Latest posts