Mushroom Extracts Could Help The Bees

The bee population has been going steadily downhill since the late 1990s. It has given rise to what is known as ‘colony collapse disorder.’ It happens when a colony is left without many of its worker bees, leaving behind a queen and a few nurse bees. While the phenomenon used to be rarer, it has become much more common in recent years as it coincides with the overall declining bee population. 

Bee-killing pesticides are the biggest danger of all. Even when the pesticides are not being directly targeted at the bees, they have been immensely destructive to their habitat all the same. Many flowers and nest sites get contaminated from insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, or even things such as dust from farm operations. 

As destructive as pesticides have been, they are sadly not the only threat to the bees. Far from it. There have been numerous other dangers. Among them being industrial agriculture, climate change, loss of biodiversity, lack of food for the bees, and diseases that impact the bees directly. 

The ‘deformed wing virus’ is up there in terms of its sheer devastation to the bee population. The virus causes the bees’ wings to come out shrunken and/or deformed, which oftentimes will completely prevent the bees from being able to fly. The virus also hampers their immune systems and shortens their lifespans. With their flying ability compromised, the bees also pollinate less plants. Not only that, but among the plants that do get pollinated, traces of the virus are left behind, potentially infecting other pollinators. 

The reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, is a fungus that grows in various hot and humid locations in Asia.

Alas, most beekeepers do not have an efficient way to fight the virus. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done at all. As it happens, mushrooms have proven to be useful once again. This time around, it is the Fomes and Ganoderma mushrooms that have been able to benefit nature. 

It is at Washington State University where a lot of testing has been done. Using mycelium extracts taken from these mushrooms, scientists have been feeding the extracts to bees that are infected with deformed wing virus, whereupon the scientists study the affects of the mycelium and see if it has been beneficial in any way. In both indoor and outdoor experiments, the scientists’ findings were that the bees who fed on mycelium extracts came out a lot healthier than the bees who only drank sugar water. While the mycelium did not completely eradicate the virus, it did help reduce it by a significant degree. 

The results have been promising so far, but some of the results are still inconclusive, and more research will need to be done. It’s still being determined just how effective the mycelium extracts will be in the long run with helping to restoring bee colonies. The field studies so far took place over a two-month period during the summer. However, winter is the season where bees struggle the most, and as such, future studies will need to focus more on winter to see how many of the bees are able to survive the cold. 

Sources: 

https://www.wired.com/story/a-mushroom-extract-might-save-bees-from-a-killer-virus/ 

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_collapse_disorder 

 http://sos-bees.org/ 

 http://sos-bees.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/BeesInDecline.pdf