One of our favorite agents of decay, the mushroom, may very well hold the answer to the honeybee plight.
There are at least 60 factors that have been affecting honeybees recently, including pesticides, disease, malnutrition, loss of habitat, and climate change. But the single greatest threat is the varroa mite and the infections that it carries.
“It would be like having something the size of pancake feeding on you.”
No larger than a pinhead, the mites feed on the bee larvae, lay eggs, and spread rapidly throughout the hive.
Mycologist extraordinaire, Paul Stamets, had an epiphany when he noticed bees sipping on the fungal roots in his yard.
“Bees have immune systems, just like we do,” he said. “These mushrooms are like miniature pharmaceutical factories.”
Not only are they developing fungi that can fight infection, scientists have found fungi as an alternative to pesticides that can kill the mites themselves without harming bees. Experiments are expanding this fall with the largest commercial beekeeping operations.