Happy World Bee Day!!
Updated: May 21
What an amazing day to celebrate!! You may be wondering why a Biotechnology company is celebrating this unique insect. Today is the World Celebration of one of the most critical elements to our ecosystem and one of the reasons why we are all alive today, in harmony and balance, because of the efforts of the Honey Bee, according to the Honey Bee Conservancy. Interestingly enough, the Honey Bee does have a link to our biotechnology world - a deep link. Currently, they are "self medicating" themselves with a mushroom species near and dear to our heart, ganoderma, also known as Reishi Mushroom, "the mushroom of immortality"
Ganoderma is in our Infinimin® brand and has been a staple of our research and product development.
Recently, all across the world, Honey Bees are experiencing a similar "pandemic" of their own. It's not like the Coronavirus like ours, but it is a virus that destroys populations. It is called Colony Collapse Disorder and is derived from a "deformed wing virus" (DWV for those that don't want to think of cute cuddly bees with broken wings, just go with the acronym to speed up the reading :) ). DWV is unique as it is transferred mostly by mites (tiny bugs found on everything, even your eyebrows, right now ... ) and these mites tend to go into flowers for nectar. The very same place where honey bees go to pollinate and they inadvertently pick up small mites. The science phrase here is a mite-mediated transmission via pollination. Or, mites are in the flowers, bees brush up on them, and the virus attached to the mite becomes attached to the bee. Similar to how you should cover your mouth when you sneeze in church and with all of those people in a small crowded space and your sneeze potential is 27 feet! You are the mite, in a flower, with other people who come into the church (or "bees") around you that can get sick with your coronavirus. The math is the same, just a different analogy. Fyi, don't go to church during a pandemic - no one wants to disrespect your religion, but you can watch the pastor/priest/diety/shah or religious leader online these days.
What is really remarkable, is nature has a unique way of balancing itself out. When humans mess with nature and deem things "ugly" there is a terrible effect, which is what happened in the late 50s with China killing sparrows that were "ugly" which threw off of the insect population, which threw off the bee population, which threw off the agriculture industry and put a country in famine. Hooray for government leadership, "Four Pests Campaign" and almond farmers who love to pollinate with paint brushes.
Back to the balancing act of these beautiful creatures ....
If you are still reading by this point, feel free to read our "Cliffs Notes" and Summary below for more information!!
Infinitum Health Cliffs Notes (TL;DR summary for those that are into that)
Waves of highly infectious viruses sweeping through global honey bee populations have contributed to recent declines in honey bee health. Bees have been observed foraging on mushroom mycelium, suggesting that they may be deriving medicinal or nutritional value from fungi. Fungi are known to produce a wide array of chemicals with antimicrobial activity, including compounds active against bacteria, other fungi, or viruses. This study tested extracts from the mycelium of multiple polypore fungal species known to have antiviral properties. Extracts from amadou (Fomes) and reishi (Ganoderma) fungi reduced the levels of honey bee deformed wing virus (DWV) and Lake Sinai virus (LSV) in a dose- dependent manner. In field trials, colonies fed Ganoderma extract exhibited a 79-fold reduction in DWV and a 45,000-fold reduction in LSV compared to control colonies. These findings indicate honey bees may gain health benefits from fungi and their antimicrobial compounds, specifically, the Ganoderma species of mushroom. Summary
The Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) is a critical component of crop production and food biosecurity world- wide. A. mellifera and other members of the genus Apis also play a key role in the ecological stability of wild plant communities within areas of endemism in Europe, Africa and Asia. Managed A. mellifera colonies are estimated to contribute over $15 billion annually to the US agricultural economy through the pollination of numerous fruits, nuts and vegetables. The pollination of almonds in California alone requires relocating over 75% of the managed honey bee colonies (nearly 2 million) in the United States on this single crop during bloom. Over the past decade, beekeepers have experienced a dramatic increase in annual colony losses, typically averaging well over 30%. This combination of high demand and reduced supply has led to expansive increases in pollination costs for growers, while beekeepers have been hard-pressed to maintain adequate numbers of healthy honey bee colonies to remain economically viable, even with the benefit of higher pollination service fees. Two of the most important factors contributing to widespread colony losses are infestation of A. mellifera with the parasitic mite Varroa destructor and the suite of associated viruses. The extent to which Varroa mites are involved in the amplification and dissemination of RNA viruses among honey bee populations has only recently become apparent, with Varroa infestation now known to be associated with at least 10 honey bee viruses. Viruses are recognized to play a contributing role in widespread colony losses, especially deformed wing virus (DWV) and Varroa destructor virus-1 (VDV1). DWV is a devastating virus that causes shriveled wings, reduced worker life span, reduced foraging, and immunosuppression in honey bees (Fig. 1A). In addition to mite-mediated transmission, RNA viruses (including DWV) can also be transmitted among pollinators via pollen. Another potentially problematic virus associated with honey bees and Varroa mites is the Lake Sinai virus group. LSV was first identified in 2010 but is now widespread in US honey bee colonies.
Currently, beekeepers are only able to indirectly control virus levels by using miticides to reduce mite infestation rates in managed honey bees. Overall, this effort has worked with only limited success, given the rapidity with which Varroa mites have developed resistance to synthetic miticides. Again, with the synthetic? Nature, will always "balance" itself. Another potential approach would be to reduce virus levels directly in honey bees by using a functional antiviral material, but no such products are currently available.
There is evidence that some fungi produce substances with demonstrable antiviral activity. For example, alcohol or chloroform extracts from mycelial cultures and fruiting bodies of several polypore mushrooms (Order Polyporales) are known to have activity against pox virus, HIV-1 and H1N1 influenza. Honey bees have been observed foraging directly on mycelium growing in outdoor beds (Fig. 1B), leading to speculation that they may be procuring a nutritional or medicinal gain. In this study, we evaluated extracts derived from the mycelia of several polypore mushroom species for activity against two major honey bee viruses in vivo in both laboratory and field studies. In both cases, reductions in DWV and LSV titers occurred in bees that were fed mycelial extracts in sucrose syrup. This behavior may represent a novel facet of social immunity, given that a growing body of evidence indicates that honey bees self-medicate using plant-derived substances. In this study, the researchers evaluated extracts derived from the mycelia of several polypore mushroom species for activity against two major honey bee viruses in vivo in both laboratory and field studies. In both cases, reductions in DWV and LSV titers occurred in bees that were fed mycelial extracts in sucrose syrup, largely from the ganoderma species of mushroom.
Bees, let alone colonies of bees, self medicating and correcting their own problem? We have humans who can't coordinate a 4-way stop sign together let alone respect social distancing because they think it's some kind of government control tactic. Amazing! Extracts from amadou (Fomes) and reishi (Ganoderma) fungi reduced the levels of honey bee deformed wing virus (DWV) and Lake Sinai virus (LSV) in a dose- dependent manner. In field trials, colonies fed Ganoderma extract exhibited a 79-fold reduction in DWV and a 45,000-fold reduction in LSV compared to control colonies. These findings indicate honey bees may gain health benefits from fungi and their antimicrobial compounds, specifically, the Ganoderma species of mushroom.
(the first one is the hero of the story, Mr. Paul Stamets (credit, Andrew Weil, MD). A mushroom advocate for 30 years, only until recently when people (and maybe internet ability to broadcast farther?) started listening to him talk about mushrooms. An honor to be referencing his work.)
Stamets, Paul, et. al. "Extracts of Polypore Mushroom Mycelia Reduce Viruses in Honey Bees." Nature. (2018) 8:13936. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-32194-8
Bourouiba, L, et. al. Turbulent Gas Clouds and Respiratory Pathogen EmissionsPotential Implications for Reducing Transmission of COVID-19. Journal of American Medical Association. 2020;323(18):1837-1838. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.4756