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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Science Note: Using Mushrooms to Save The Bees

Air Date: Week of

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Varroa mites are the tiny parasites that transmit the Deformed Wing virus to bees, thereby giving them shrunken wings and preventing them from flying. (Photo: AbsoluteFolly, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A single Varroa mite can bring down an entire honeybee hive by infecting an individual bee with the Deformed Wing Virus. But researchers are now seeing that certain mushroom extracts can be used to treat these infected bees, as Aynsley O’Neill reports in this week’s Note on Emerging Science.

Transcript

[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]

O’NEILL: Deformed Wing virus has resulted in the deaths of billions of bees around the world.

As the name indicates, the virus gives bees shrunken, misshapen wings, which prevents them from flying, and essentially cuts their lifespans in half.

Although the parasitic mite that causes the virus is no more than 2 millimeters in length, it can take down an entire hive by infecting just one bee that transmits the virus to its hive mates.

Even worse, if a sick bee visits a flower, it can transfer the disease to any other bees that come in contact with that plant in the future.

But now a team of scientists has discovered an unexpected potential cure: mushrooms.

After seeing that bees tend to drink water droplets from fungi, a team of scientists theorized that the bees might be doing more than just hydrating.

Amadou and reishi mushrooms have both been used in traditional medicines, but this is the first time researchers have investigated their antiviral properties as a potential cure for Deformed Wing virus.

When bees consumed mushroom extracts in lab experiments, they had an 800-fold decrease in the levels of the Deformed Wing Virus in their systems.

Even in difficult-to-control field experiments, scientists observed an 80-fold reduction in the virus levels after treating hives with the reishi extract.

Now, these scientists are scaling up their experiment by conducting tests in hundreds of beehives throughout the state of Oregon.

That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Aynsley O’Neill.

[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]

 

Links

Read about this research in the article in Nature

TED | “6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save The World”

Learn more about this and other mushroom research

 

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