What do you get when you mix a mushroom farmer and a scientist? Oh, just the potential key to saving the future for honey bees. Casual.
Bees are responsible for pollinating over a third of our food supply and 90 percent of wild plants. About 84 percent of crops grown for human consumption – fruits, vegetables, nuts, cocoa beans, tea, and coffee (yes, coffee!) – need bees to pollinate them to increase their yields and quality. Alarmingly, bee populations have been rapidly declining since the 1980s, and scientists have been on the hunt for answers. While pesticides and viruses are largely to blame, mites knowns as the varroa destructor are also a large threat.
But luckily, a solution might be in sight. When mushroom farmer Paul Stamets began to notice the bees around his fields munching on root-like filaments called mycelium, he began to speculate if there was a correlation between the bees’ health and their appetite for mushrooms. To find out, he teamed up with beekeeper and Washington State University entomologist, Steve Sheppard, to see if they could substantiate the claim.
Backed by the National Institute of Health and the Defense Department, they found that when bees frequented trees covered with certain mushrooms, didn’t have mites. In fact, they found that certain mushroom compounds can boost a bee’s immune system, and hopefully even protect them from mites.
The team is working on dropping pieces of cardboard dusted with finely ground powder from the mushrooms into standard bee boxes to track their progress. As the bees organize the hives, they cover themselves in the potentially mite-killing compounds, so ideally there will be positive results for these pollinators.
While this might not be the bee-all-end-all solution, it’s a very exciting start. Stamets told Crosscut, “Nature leads us to solutions if we connect the dots, are open minded and think creatively. We need to be innovative to create solutions that help tilt the balance to help bees, and ultimately us.
Check out this bee saving team in action:
To learn more about bees and how you can help them, click here. Take action today!
Image source: Daniela/Flickr