Can Mushrooms Help Boost Honey Bee Health?

Can Mushrooms Help Boost Honey Bee Health?

Steve Sheppard and his team provide the mushroom extract to a bee hive as part of their experiment. Bees that received the extract showed significant declines in viral infections within days. (Photo: Washington State University)

Could mushrooms be the missing magic ingredient to help boost honey bee health? Research conducted by Steve Sheppard, a Professor of Entomology with Washington State University, shows that honey bee colonies fed mycelium extract from amadou and reishi fungi had a 79-fold reduction in deformed wing virus and 45,000-fold reduction in Lake Sinai virus compared to control colonies.

“One of the major ways Varroa mites hurt bees is by spreading and amplifying viruses,” Sheppard said. “Mites really put stress on the bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to viruses that shorten worker bee lifespans.”

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This research was published in Scientific Reports. This is the first paper published from a partnership between Sheppard’s lab and Fungi Perfecti, co-owned by Paul Stamets, who also is a co-author of the paper.

“Paul previously worked on a project that demonstrated the antiviral properties of mycelial extracts on human cells,” Sheppard said. “He read about viruses hurting bees and called us to explore the use of the extracts on honeybees. After two years, we demonstrated that those antiviral properties extend to honey bees.”

Fungi Perfecti is scaling up production of the extracts. Sheppard’s lab in the meantime will be refining the results.