The wonders of nature never fail to amaze. Take the spore-bearing fleshy bodies of fungi: our favorites being mushrooms. Good cooks have been sautéing them in a bit of olive oil to add flavor to our meals for centuries, and the Chinese and other cultures revere them for medicinal qualities. Now, as it turns out, mushrooms and fungi in general are incredibly useful plants with countless benefits and applications beyond food, especially in their role as "soil magicians."
Paul Stamets, world renowned mycologist, says fungi are “…the grand molecular disassemblers in nature, decomposing plants and animals, creating forests…they’re soil magicians.”
While these little magicians may hide many trade secrets under their toadstools, scientists that study them are regularly amazed at new findings. Case in point: a recent study has discovered that mushrooms may play an important part in saving the bees from colony collapse!
As oft reported here at Wellness Warrior, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when the majority of worker bees within a hive simply disappear, leaving the Queen bee behind. Since 2006 it has been estimated that nearly one-third of all honeybee colonies in the country have vanished. This strange and frightening occurrence seems to be due in large part to the overuse of certain pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
That’s where mushrooms step in. As it turns out certain types of beneficial fungi (such as red belted polypores), collected from the bees' natural environment, work as detoxifying agents to degrade pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that may enter the bees' system.
While studying honeybees, Stamets observed that wild bees tended to nest in rotten stumps and other areas of the forest rich in fungi growth. He speculated that spores high in mycological antiviral properties would inevitably make their way into the bees' systems, serving to protect them somehow against harm.
On the other hand, commercial bees are fed a diet of sugar-water and kept in hives (not fungus-rich logs). Likewise, the overuse of pesticides and fungicides, along with deforestation, have led to a decline in healthy bee habitats that were once so rich in beneficial fungi.
Stamets theorized that the absence of detoxification pathways, previously provided to bees by beneficial mushrooms (now depleted by pesticides) has led to hyper-accumulation of toxins within the bee population; a possible cause of their disappearance.
The solution? A kind of bee vaccine called Mycohoney: honey rich in beneficial tree fungi and the antiviral properties bees now so desperately lack.
As reported in a recent article in Collective Evolution,
... “Mycohoney,” made from the polypore mushroom mycelium ... when fed to bees in the University of Washington trials ... showed extraordinary significance in life extension of the honey bees.” The article goes on to quote alter S. Sheppard, PhD P.F. Thurber Professor, Chair, Department of Entomology Washington State University as stating, “As an entomologist with 39 years’ experience studying bees, I am unaware of any reports of materials that extend the life of worker bees more than this.”
Intriguing right?! Bee vaccines may sound like the stuff of science fiction but they have certainly been proven to be effective in preliminary studies. If you’re as curious as we are about this prospect, be sure to take a look at this explanatory video featuring Paul Stamets.
Pesticide relevance and their microbial degradation: a-state-of-art via Springer.com
How Mushrooms Can Save Bees & Our Food Supply via Collective Evolution
Scientists May Have Finally Pinpointed What's Killing All The Honeybees via Business Insider
Read all articles by Juniper Briggs