Fungus helps fight honeybee viruses
This article was originally published on Fruit Growers News on October 4, 2018 and can be found here.
A mushroom extract fed to honeybees greatly reduces virus levels, according to a new paper from Washington State University scientists, the USDA and colleagues at Fungi Perfecti, a business based in Olympia, Washington.
In field trials, colonies fed mycelium extract from amadou and reishi fungi showed a 79-fold reduction in deformed wing virus and a 45,000-fold reduction in Lake Sinai virus compared to control colonies.
Though it’s in the early stages of development, the researchers see great potential in this research.
“Our greatest hope is that these extracts have such an impact on viruses that they may help varroa mites become an annoyance for bees, rather than causing huge devastation,” said Steve Sheppard, a WSU entomology professor and one of the paper’s authors.
“We’re excited to see where this research leads us. Time is running out for bee populations and the safety and security of the world’s food supply hinges on our ability to find means to improve pollinator health.”
The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports, (http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/s41598-018-32194-8.)
The hope is that the results of this research will help dwindling honeybee colonies fight viruses, that are known to play a role in colony collapse disorder.
“One of the major ways varroa mites hurt bees is by spreading and amplifying viruses,” Sheppard said. “Mites really put stress on the bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to viruses that shorten worker bee lifespans.”
Partnership with Fungi Perfecti, LLC
This is the first research paper to come out of a partnership between Sheppard’s lab and Fungi Perfecti. Their co-owner and founder Paul Stamets is a co-author on the paper.
“Paul previously worked on a project that demonstrated the antiviral properties of mycelial extracts on human cells,” Sheppard said. “He read about viruses hurting bees and called us to explore the use of the extracts on honeybees. After two years, we demonstrated that those anti-viral properties extend to honey bees.”