Keyrole of the foeraging behaviour of bumble bees in the biological control of plant pathogens (Botrytis cinerea)

Project Details


Since several decades bumblebees have been used in greenhouses for the pollination of crops and fruits like
strawberries. The advantage of natural pollinations is an improvement of the fruit quality. Furthermore, due
to the use of bumblebees, the growing public concern towards the conventional fungicides for the
environment and the residual risks and the development of resistant strains, there is an urgent need for
alternatives to control world important plant pathogens like the grey mold Botrytis cinerea. A promising
solution to these problems is the employment of biological control agents (BCAs). For instance, Trichoderma
species have proved under laboratory conditions to be capable to control B. cinerea. However, in the field
spray applications failed to control the plant pathogen. In this project we will investigate the ability of
bumblebees to disseminate conidia of T. harzianum and T. polysporum from hive-mounted dispensers to
greenhouse strawberries for the control of B. cinerea. We will work with the four most important bumblebee
species: Bombus terrestris, Bombus ignitus, Bombus canadiensis and Bombus occidentalis.
At first we will evaluate the compatibility of the BCAs, the transport capacity and the survival of the conidia
in the flowers. At last the biological system will be tested under practical conditions. This research project is
unique because the pollinator-vector technology is a novel and challenging example of integrating agroecosystem
processes of pollinating and integrated pest management strategies to reduce the reliance on
fungicides and to increase crop yields and quality.
Effective start/end date1/01/0931/12/09

Flemish discipline codes

  • Biological sciences


  • Biology