Last summer Dr. Keith Delaplane from Univ. Georgia spoke at our State Assn summer meeting and briefly mentioned how RNA silencing is a technique used to limit or turn off the harmful actions of a virus. Some success has been achieved in fighting some bee viruses using this technique, but it functions as a treatment, not an inheritable change in the bees, so treated bees can't pass along this virus protection future generations of bees.
Last Fall, Dr. Jamie Ellis (Univ Florida) was our guest, and he also touched upon this topic. He mentioned research into RNA-interference and the silencing of certain important genes. Researchers look for differences between the genomes of bees and pests such as Small Hive Beetle, and then look for ways to exploit those differences genetically. For example, if the genes which cause the SHB’s shell to harden could be turned off, their ability to survive would be seriously compromised. Jamie said real results in this line of research are probably ten years out, but it presents some promising opportunities.
I know a commercial beekeeper who is participating in a field study of some gene silencing treatments, so there may be some products hitting the marketplace in the not too distant future.