Monday, 2 April 2012

Bees Self-Medicate To Fight Off Fungus

When they get sick, bees raid their own "medicine cabinet," researchers have found. Specifically, when infected with fungi, they collect loads of antifungal plant extracts and coat their hives with them.

The mix of plant resins and wax that the bees usually use to line their hives, called propolis, have antifungal properties.

The new research could help beekeepers ward off fungal infection in their colonies, Michael Simone-Finstrom of North Carolina State University said in a statement. "Historically, U.S. beekeepers preferred colonies that used less of this resin, because it is sticky and can be difficult to work with," he said. "Now we know that this is a characteristic worth promoting, because it seems to offer the bees some natural defense."

The researchers studied 23 colonies, 12 of which had hives coated with "natural" amounts of resin, and 11 with the low amounts normally used in beekeeping. They then challenged the colonies with fungal and bacterial infections, and analyzed how many bees went out to fetch resin for the propolis in each hive, to see if the hive was sending out more foragers to get resin.

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