Happy National Mushroom Month & National Honey Month from Host Defense®! With these two celebrations in full swing throughout September, it’s the perfect time to highlight the synergistic relationship between two of our favorite things: mushrooms and bees.
Worldwide, managed honey bee populations, as well as some native bee populations, have experienced marked decline. Managed colony losses have averaged about 30 percent each year over the past ten years. As research into this decline progressed since 2006, when the phenomenon was first recognized and named Colony Collapse Disorder, it became evident that a major contributing factor has been the rise of multiple honey bee viruses. Some scientists estimate that if no solution is found, all managed honey bee colonies could face total decimation within ten years.
Almost 35 years ago, Paul Stamets, on his way to becoming a world-renowned mycologist and inventor of many novel uses for mushrooms and their mycelial rooting systems, observed that his honey bees were moving aside mulch in his garden to get to the mycelium of his mushroom patch. That simple observation became the genesis for a great experiment years later.
Compounds found in the mycelial extracts of certain mushroom species had been shown to support natural, innate immunity.* Paul wondered if those same compounds could be of use to honey bees. He communicated his idea to Dr. Steve Sheppard, head of Entomology and honey bee research expert at Washington State University (WSU) thus starting an amazing collaboration. Using selected mycelial extracts provided by Fungi Perfecti, Dr. Sheppard and his team tested them on living honey bees, first in a lab environment and then in what became the largest field trial experiment on managed honey bees ever. The results were nothing short of astounding. So much so that findings were recently published online in Nature: Scientific Reports, October 4, 2018.
The mycelial extracts of mushrooms were able to confer a significant immune benefit to bees.* More research is needed; however, it is clear mushroom mycelium may provide a simple, easily applied, ecologically sound and safe component to the devastating problem of Colony Collapse Disorder.
Perhaps Paul Stamets is right:
Mushrooms may indeed help save bees and the planet.