What do mushrooms have to do with the survival of honey bees?

Bees may be very determined; and sting like, well, a bee. But they might soon be gone for good, and you wouldn’t be happy about it.

One thing that might save them from a massive die-off is an elixir derived from mushrooms. It’s not just about sweet, sweet honey. Bees are the world’s most important crop pollinators. No bees would mean no blueberry pie for dessert, and less coffee for a higher price.

About a decade ago, honey bees started mysteriously disappearing from their hives, leaving beekeepers to find a cause and a solution to this colony collapse disorder. And finally, a cure seems to have come from where nobody was expecting.

What is killing honey bees in the first place? And what do mushrooms have to do with their survival?

Bees survive on a pretty healthy diet of water, protein-rich pollen, and sweet nectar; and get a lot of exercise flying from their hive to flower meadows and back. But even living a healthy lifestyle can’t save them in a world full of pesticides.

While on the job, harvesting nectar, bees pick up some of the chemicals that get sprayed on leaves and pollen, like neonicotinoids. If these chemicals don’t kill them immediately, the worker bees bring the pesticide back to the hive, where the chemical slowly wipes out the colony.

Pesticides aren’t the only cause of colony collapse disorder. Rising temperatures and loss of habitat both contribute to this die-off. But probably the most destructive bee-killer of all is the crab-like, parasitic Varroa mite. It attaches itself to a bee, feasts on its blood and spreads deadly infections.

Imagine a bee born with disfigured, nonfunctional wings. How far could a bee like this fly in search of food?Definitely not far enough.

Affected by deformed wing virus, honey bees can only survive up to 48 hours – 20 times less than an average worker bee. Bees suffering from this ailment are usually expelled from the colony. But often this preventive measure comes too late – the virus is already affecting bee larvae inside the hive.

Today’s bees have got a much better chance of survival. After years of research, scientists have created the first “bee vaccine.” And it comes from mushrooms.

Mycelia, the fungal membranes of the two mushroom species – tinder fungus and Red Reishi – kill hideous Varroa mites without harming a hair on bees’ heads. In fact, it was the bees themselves who pointed this “vaccine” out to researches. The insects had been feeding on water droplets on the mushrooms long before the colony collapse struck them.

Now researches are feeding honey bees mushroom broth, and the results are promising. The mushroom extract isn’t quite an antiviral drug that immunizes bees against a specific virus. It’s more like an immunity booster for bees.

But it seems to do the trick. Hopefully, beekeepers are providing free mushroom soup to their employees. Bees are one of the most important insects on the planet.

They make thousands of tons of honey, pollinate countless acres of our crops, and they can be cured by mushrooms. That’s why they’re Crazy Creatures.


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