Bee populations are at risk from a host of threats, but an unlikely savior has emerged in the past few years. Mushroom extracts promise to help bee populations by boosting their immune systems.
Bee populations have dropped precipitously over the past 15 years. The problems has become so sever, that in 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally listed the bumble bee on the Endangered Species List for the first time in history because there was an 88 percent decline in their numbers and an 87 percent loss in the amount of natural territory they inhabit.
The die-off of bees had happened for a few different reasons. The main culprits for their decline are, as stated earlier, a loss in their habitats, as well as steep increase in pesticide and insecticide use over the past couple decades. In addition, according to the EPA, bees have been dying from invasive varroa and other mites, as well as new diseases, such as Israeli Acute Paralysis virus and the gut parasite Nosema. Furthermore, the added stress on bees from environmental factors has impacted their immune systems.
Bees support our food supply.
Bees are vital to life on Earth and this is why their extreme drop in numbers is so alarming. Many plants depend on bees for pollination, including trees that produce apples, almonds, and cherries, as well as different varieties of squash, which cannot bear fruit without the help of bees. In fact, it’s estimated that one-third of our diet will be at risk if we lose the world’s bees.
Hope in a Fungus
Everyone needs heroes, and that includes bees. One such hero is a mycologist (a scientist who studies fungi) from Washington – Dr. Paul Stamets. Decades ago, while in his backyard, he had observed honeybees drinking the liquid droplets that formed on a fungus growing on a pile of woodchips.
When Dr. Stamets became aware of the steep decline in bee populations, he recalled the bees drinking from droplets on the fungus and curiosity got the better of him. He decided to investigate what was actually in the liquid the bees had been eagerly sucking in.
Here’s a video from Bioneers of Dr. Stamets talking about the power of mushrooms:
Stamets already knew that the liquid from the fungus would contain sugars, but it turned out that the mycelium he had extracted from the fungus also had powerful antiviral properties.
When he started treating sick bees with the extract, two main viruses that had been afflicting them were drastically reduced. After only 12 days on the extract, there was a 79-fold reduction in deformed wing virus and a 45,000-fold drop in Lake Sinai virus, while there was no change in the control group that only got sugar water.
Stamets believes that the extract boosts the bees’ immune systems, allowing them to more effectively fight off infection. He hopes to make his mushroom bee medicine commercially available commercially sometime this year. You can learn more about Dr. Stamets work on Fungi.com.