α-Costic acid, a plant sesquiterpene with acaricidal activity against Varroa destructor parasitizing the honey bee

The organic extract of the aerial parts of Dittrichia viscosa, a perennial native plant of the Mediterranean basin, showed a significant acaricidal activity against Varroa destructor, the parasite mite of Apis mellifera, commonly called honey bee. Among the metabolites isolated from the organic extract of this Asteraceae, α-costic acid showed to be one of the compounds responsible for the toxic activity exhibited by the crude plant extract on this parasite mite species. In addition to the toxic effect a clear acaricidal response has been recorded when the parasitic mite was exposed to 1 mg/mL concentration of α-costic acid while no effects have been showed on honey bees using the same compound at the same concentration. This finding suggests a potential use of α-costic acid to control Varroa mites. The possibility to reliably achieve absolute configuration of α-costic acid by DFT computational analysis of chiroptical spectra has been also demonstrated.