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 

IKEA Ditches Styrofoam for Mushroom Based Packaging

Known for its toxic impact on nature, plastic is one of the biggest environmental concerns we face today. One issue is that plastic forms so many of the containers and packaging used for retail products. Nearly half of all such packaging is plastic, in fact. While plastic does have a lot of convenient uses in that regard, it is a shame that is it so destructive to nature. 

Conversely, it is a good thing that mushrooms have so many environmental benefits, with more being uncovered all the time. Not long ago, scientists discovered a mushroom called the Pestalotiopsis microspore, which is able to digest plastic and convert it into a fungal-based food product for people to eat. 

Biodegradable packing made from mushrooms.

As it happens, mushrooms have proven to be useful once again. This time around, they have been able to act as a viable alternative to environmentally-unfriendly containers such as the ones made out of plastic or Styrofoam. These mushroom containers are made out of fungal roots and farming residues. At the start of the manufacturing process, fungus sprouts (also known as mycelium) are mixed in with seedlings and other agricultural residues. With a network of wire-like cells, it acts as a natural adhesive. 

Once the mushroom containers are no longer needed, they can be used for compost, and are otherwise fully biodegradable. The containers can decompose into nature within a timespan of one month, and are also completely harmless to any living creatures who happen to ingest them. Among other benefits, the containers also use only 12% of the energy used in plastic production, and they produce 90% less carbon emissions than plastic manufacture. 

Polystyrene for organic.

IKEA, a company that sells furniture, kitchen appliances, and home accessories, began to make use of these mushroom-based containers over the summer of 2019, even going far enough to announce that MycoComposite packaging would be replacing Styrofoam for all of the company’s products. Joanna Yarrow, IKEA’s Head of Sustainability, stated that this was, “[a] small yet significant step towards reducing waste and conserving ecological balance.” 

There are still many people to this day who are unaware of how damaging plastic and Styrofoam are. Styrofoam is made from polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic, which causes pollution by emitting greenhouse gases. It is also very harmful to any creatures who end up consuming the Styrofoam. Cows and birds especially are at high risk for ingesting it, and it is believed that by 2050, 99% of birds will have plastic inside of them. It can also be harmful to people as well. For one thing, chemicals from Styrofoam containers can contaminate the food or drinks inside, which is detrimental to human health. 

All we can do for now is continue to spread awareness, and to hope that these new methods of environmentally-safe packaging will further catch on. IKEA’s new approach and their willingness to alter their production methods is promising, and it inspires faith that others will learn to do the same.