"Now it seems honeybees may have a way of helping to keep their workforce healthy - by employing bees that feed "medicinal honey" to other members of the hive."
"A group of worker bees called "nurse bees", if they are infected with a parasite, selectively eat honey that has a high antibiotic activity, according to Silvio Erler of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Halle, Germany and his colleagues."
"These bees are also responsible for feeding honey to the larvae and distributing it to other members of the colony. So it's possible they are the hive's doctors, prescribing different types of honey to other bees depending on their infection. If that is true, it could be a big part of how bees fight disease."Early in 2014, my wife and I watched a documentary on the global issue of colony collapse disorder on just how and why Bees are so important to Agriculture all around the globe. There were a couple of interesting points mentioned, aside from the usual controversy of GMOs and Chemical Insecticides. One important clue was revealed in the California's Central Valley agricultural areas whose orchards are extremely dependent on the services of Bee Keepers. These Bee Keepers move their hives around to provide pollinating services to various Almond, Peach, Cherry and other orchard Farmers. The fact is that these bees being used in this way are over worked and under stress. They also are being forced to pollinate and feed on a monoculture diet with little else in the way of additional dietary supplements in the form of natural dietary variety which comes from a community of plant life. Hence they have to artificially provide these Commercial Bees with synthetic anti-biotics which would be present in a normal healthy diet involving great variety of pollen food choices such as countless wildflowers for which they have zero access under a sterile industrial Ag environment. Above right you can see one example of something which is mixed with water and laid out close to the hive for the honeybees to access. Of course, bees are not the only self medicating creatures. You can bookmark this video and watch it from the link below here later which came from the Animal Planet program about the importance of biodiversity of grasslands for herbivores who also find a treasure trove of pharmaceuticals in such pristine habitats called "Most Extreme Animal Medics - Using Plants To Self-Medicate". This is actually one of Joel Salatin's of Polyface Farm's talking points with what he calls "Salad Bar Beef"
Update: February 18, 2015
UMass Amherst: ‘Nature’s Medicine Cabinet’ Helps Bees Reduce Disease Load
AMHERST, Mass. – "Researchers studying the interaction between plants, pollinators and parasites report that in recent experiments, bees infected with a common intestinal parasite had reduced parasite levels in their guts after seven days if the bees also consumed natural toxins present in plant nectar."
They found that toxic chemicals in nectar reduced infection levels of the common bumblebee parasite by as much as 81 percent by seven days after infection. UMass Amherst evolutionary ecologist Lynn Adler says, “We found that eating some of these compounds reduced pathogen load in the bumblebee’s gut, which not only may help the individual bees, but likely reduced the pathogen Crithidia spore load in their feces, which in turn should lead to a lower likelihood of transmitting the disease to other bees.”
The eight chemicals studied were nicotine and anabasine found in nectar of flowers in the tobacco family, caffeine from coffee and citrus nectar, amygdalin from almond nectar, aucubin and catalpol from turtlehead flowers, gallic acid from buckwheat nectar and thymol from basswood tree nectar.
Adler notes, “A lot of our spices and medicines come from plant secondary metabolites. Think of aspirin and chili powder. Because we’re big, we can eat a little chili powder on our food and it’s just a taste sensation. But for an insect the same dose might be fatal. That’s what the plant is counting on.”
|Image: Leif Richardson - Dartmouth|
White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
As for whether bees know about the benefits of plants’ chemical medicine cabinets and can treat themselves when they are sick, she adds, “That is the million dollar question, the one most often asked when I give talks about these ideas. Unfortunately, it’s too early to tell. We just don’t know yet.”Ultimately there is no way to know without inserting various person metaphysical assumptions and or biased religious beliefs. It is curious however, that Lynn Alder has no problem about how plants knew what they had to do in order to survive. Apparently, the origin of these compounds for which she makes metaphysical assumptions about how the plants displayed almost sentient being consciousness behaviour in that that somehow they just knew what they needed to do in order to survive, replicate themselves and save themselves from obliteration by diseases & insects. As she put it, they needed to evolve themselves into becoming 'amazing chemists' by experimenting with various chemical algorithms to ward off countless enemies ? Take a look below:
“Because plants just sit there and can’t run away from things that want to eat them, they have evolved to be amazing chemists. They make biological compounds called secondary metabolites, which are chemicals not involved in growth or reproduction, to protect themselves. They are amazing in the diversity of what they can produce for protecting themselves or for attracting pollinators.”For me, much of these debates about origins is a waste of time and counter productive to finding real world solutions NOW on how humans need to better manage the Earth. But I guess we're kidding ourselves now aren't we. That's not how these various ideological-religious factions work is it ? This obsession with control of worldview is further and further disuniting this planet, and frankly, NEITHER SIDE seems to care. What fascinates me is that quite often it is the developing world farmers who are more open to such Biomimicry or working with Nature, than their industrial farming counterparts in the rich nations. Industrial Nation Farmers are shackled ideologically and psychologically to what the Industrial Ag corporations and the governmental advisors are feeding them. Add to that all those US Farm Subsidy entitlement programs for which ONLY conventional farmers are entitled to and not organic, they have exacerbated the problem of educating and weaning Industrial Farmers off the welfare state programs. In the mean time, the Earth's health continues to downgrade because basically the ongoing degradation of the natural world is actually financed by the very Officials in positions of responsibility and care. Something radical has got to happen soon or the damage will be irreversible. Does everyone get this ? Or is obsession with worldview still more important ? Somehow I have a spooky feeling it's still the later.
Another quick note from the Japan Times
|Courtesy: Leif Richardson|
Bumblebee on a flower in Saint-Malo, France
“The results suggest that growing plants high in these compounds around farm fields could create a natural ‘medicine cabinet’ that improves survival of diseased bees and pollination of crops,” Dartmouth College in New Hampshire said in a statement.He also hits on something else extremely important and that is just where the problem with Colony Collapse Disorder is found to be the worst around the globe. While many documentaries on CCD have mentioned it being a global problem, it is at it's worst in North Americas, Europe, China and Australia. Why ? Doesn't take a genius to figure out who leads the way through profiteering in the conventional industrial agriculture business model and which corporations within those Nations stand to gain big time with the status quo and wish to monopolize the world's food supply.
Further experiments will show whether the compounds also benefit honeybees, which have been hit in North America and Europe by a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder, said Leif Richardson, who headed the study. Parasites have been fingered, but insecticides and intensive monoculture, which destroys the bees’ habitat, have also been cited as possible causes."In any event, the developing world farmers do not reside in wealthy nations with generous welfare entitlements. They are also closer to the land than most industrial nation farmers. Even still, count on a major fight by giant Ag corporations who have some of the largest war chest bank accounts to get what they want and with the blessing of the governments which back them. For people with a clue, this should be a wake up call as to who and what you are putting your faith and trust into.
Update: September 1, 2015 - Darmouth
Parasitized bees are self-medicating in the wild, Dartmouth-led study findsI love this article. Do I hear "Let's promote Monoculture" anyone ??? Bees need a great healthy variety in their diet, not some limited genetically modified junk foods. Look at what junk food has done to human beings. This is why a great variety of beneficial pollen producing plants [shrubs, perennials, etc] need to be planted around the fringes and margins of farms and their fields. This is why agricultural fields need to be smaller with chaparral and other shrub barrier mounds as safe food and home habitat havens for beneficial pollinator/predatory insects.
"Bumblebees infected with a common intestinal parasite are drawn to flowers whose nectar and pollen have a medicinal effect, a Dartmouth-led study shows. The findings suggest that plant chemistry could help combat the decline of bee species."
"The researchers studied the effects of a group of plant secondary metabolites found naturally in floral nectar -- iridoid glycosides -- on bumblebee foraging and plant reproduction. Iridoid glycosides can deter deer and other herbivores, but the researchers' earlier studies showed the compounds have a medicinal effect on parasitized bees by reducing their parasite load."
"In the new study, the researchers looked at concentrations of two iridoid glycoside compounds, aucubin and catalpol, in nectar and pollen in four populations of turtlehead, a bee-pollinated wetland plant found throughout eastern North America. They then manipulated concentrations of the chemicals in those flowers to study their effects on bee foraging."
One really fascinating thing was that the parasites also seem to have a beneficial effect on making the bees pollinate these specialized iridoid glycoside concentrated nectar flowers more and that these flowers responded by donating more of their pollen to other flowers which brought about higher reproductive success rates of their own. So are the parasites evil ? Clearly humans are going to have to rethink their view of the complex mechanisms found in Nature and how disrupting the balance of Nature is what creates problems. Accepting blame and personal responsibility is not a natural imperfect human thing to do. However, such responsible admissions are going to be necessary if people are going to learn from their mistakes and make the needed corrections to put the natural world right. Allowing giant corporate business entities carte blanche to do whatever they wish to increase their precious corporate bottom lines is no longer going to cut it anymore.
"The results showed that relative to healthy bees, those infected with the intestinal parasite greatly preferred visiting flowers with the highest iridoid glycoside concentrations. Bees attacked by a second antagonist, a parasitoid fly, did not respond in this way to nectar chemistry. The researchers also found that flowers with the highest concentrations of nectar iridoid glycosides donated significantly more pollen to other flowers following bee visits, showing that nectar chemistry can affect plant reproductive success.
Now take another look at a photo below here taken back during a wetter rainy season in 2011 along the Hwy 243 from Beaumont to Idyllwild where a far more brilliant display was recorded and posted on Palomar's Wayne's Word Botany pages. Notice the potential ? I'll post the link below it as other beautiful pics of other flowers along Hwy 243 are posted for folks enjoyment. You might also take special note of the Chaparral in the background behind this field which also shows a deeper green healthy colour, probably the last time this region experience a good soaking rainy season.
|image: Richard Bartz (Wiki-commons)|
Bee Fly (Bombylius major)
|image: Alvesgaspar (Wiki-commons)|
A poster of hoverflies (Syrphidae)
"Unlike adults, the maggots of hoverflies feed on a variety of foods; some are saprotrophs, eating decaying plant or animal matter, while others are insectivores, eating aphids, thrips, and other plant-sucking insects. This is beneficial to gardens, as aphids destroy crops, and hoverfly maggots are often used in biological control. Certain species, such as Lampetia equestris or Eumerus tuberculatus, are responsible for pollination."
"Many species of hoverfly larvae prey upon pest insects, including aphids and the leafhoppers, which spread some diseases such as curly top. Therefore, they are seen in biocontrol as a natural means of reducing the levels of pests. Gardeners, therefore, will sometimes use companion plants to attract hoverflies. Those reputed to do so include alyssum, Iberis umbellata, statice, buckwheat, chamomile, parsley, and yarrow."
|Oregon State University|
|image: James Soe Nyun|
'Eve-Case' in bloom
"The coffeeberry’s flowers are much more nondescript to humans. On the recent garden tour I spoke to a homeowner who was wishing that she hadn’t planted her coffeeberries so close to paths because the bugs seem to go crazy over its blooms, more so than just about any other native plant. Here we have the humble blooms of Frangula (Rhamnus) californica ‘Eve Case.’ "
|image by Dr. Alistair Dove |
Systematic & Ecological Parasitologist
|Insect Paparazzi: Brian Marlow|
|From Raw Materials into Electronic|
Mind Numbing Gadgets
The Corporate and Governmental entities are going to pursue whatever their heart's desire for wealth and power. It should be acknowledge that the planet will suffer no matter what. Others will have religious and ideological motives for defending these entities. Aside from some Divine or other extraterrestrial intervention, it seems highly unlikely that humans will find real solutions for saving this planet. Seriously people, look at the daily News Reports as to what is going down all across the globe. Does it look like true peace and security is just on the horizon or around the corner ? Now, you'd think that the experts would be interested in safer organic approach solutions inspired through Biomimicry, but the problem is, these things I've mentioned above have zero profit value for most corporate Entities and their share holders. If they cannot patent it and monopolize an industry, they are not interested in an organic natural approach to custodianship of our planet Earth. For those with families who do care and want their children to have a deeper appreciation of our natural world, then understand it starts with proper parenting to educate your own children. Don't expect the public school system to do that job for you. Thus far they've failed because what is taught is only the textbook solution provided by an industrial mandate. In the mean time, there are some folks who have come up with some tools to help parents teach their children more about the Outdoors which seems to be foreign to most people living in the Industrial Nations today. Take a look at this documentary below when you find the time.
Two important follow ups to this post
Other important reading on various pollinators