Honeybees may gain health benefits, such as protection against certain viruses, from consuming extracts from fungi, a study in Scientific Reports suggests.
Viruses including the deformed wing virus (DWV) and the Lake Sinai virus (LSV) have been reported to play a significant role in the decline of honeybee health worldwide. However, approved antiviral materials are currently unavailable to beekeepers, who use miticides to reduce beehive infestation with mites suspected of transmitting the viruses.
In both laboratory and field studies, Walter Sheppard and colleagues evaluated extracts derived from fungi for activity against DWV and LSV. In the laboratory, caged bees were fed either extracts of the fungi Fomes fomentarius and Ganoderma applantum, or sugar syrup (control). Compared to the sugar-fed bees, treatment with fungal extracts substantially reduced DWV and LSV in a dose-dependent manner. In the field experiments, the authors fed bee colonies extracts of Fomes and Ganoderma mushrooms and showed that the treatment reduced levels of DWV and LSW in a dose-dependent manner after 12 days. Treatment with other species of these fungi also significantly reduced viral load, whereas control colonies that had been fed a sucrose solution showed much smaller reductions.
As the fungal extracts tested in this study are orally active and bees have been observed to forage on mushrooms in the wild, the authors suggest that, in the future, beekeepers could potentially use fungi in order to maintain the pollination services of their bees.