Could Probiotics Save the Bees? The Amazing Benefits of Microbials

7 minute read

Over the last twenty years, the bee population and beekeeper industry have been battling the problem of colony collapse disorder. While no single cause of CCD has found consensus among scientists, there are various problems associated with the disease. One of these culprits is thought to be a type of fungal infection.

With bees providing so many beneficial services to the world, scientists have turned their focus on correcting the problem. Since the problem stems from a microorganism, it only seems fitting to fight it with other, friendly microorganisms—probiotics.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria that you consume through food sources or as a digestive health supplement.

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The digestive tract of humans, bees, and most other animals consists of bacterial communities. Overtime or as a result of dietary changes or exposure to illness, this community can become depleted, which allows the opportunity for pathogenic bacteria to take over.

Once this happens, the host body has increased susceptibility to serious disease.

Probiotics can consist of any number of different strains of bacteria. Each strain provides certain benefits and can act on the body in its own unique way.

The best probiotic is, therefore, one that delivers as many of the right strains as possible. Since food sources can vary from season to season, multi strain probiotic supplements are the most efficient way to get multiple beneficial strains.

The more strains you can add to your gut community, the better enhanced your overall health will be.

Pre and probiotic supplements act as support for the bacterial community already living in the gut. Adding them to the diet reinforces the gut community and creates a healthy balance.

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This delicate balance is necessary in order to maintain healthy and efficient digestion as well as enhanced immune system support. We typically take probiotics supplements or increase the intake of probiotic foods such as yogurt, but bees would need to have these beneficial microorganisms added to their food source.

Why Bees Need Probiotics Over Antibiotics

By adding probiotics to the bees’ food, they become better protected against the fungal infection thought to be at least partially responsible for colony collapse disorder.

Nosemosis is a disease that develops when the Nosema ceranae fungus is ingested and begins to take residence in the cells of bees’ intestinal walls. For the most part, the fungus is harmless, unless the bees become stressed—stressed bees lead to collapse.

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When stressed or after antibiotic treatment, the immune system of the bees becomes compromised, allowing the fungus to invade and hinder the bees’ ability to forage, care for larva, and more.

In most cases, once the infection has reached this point, the risk for mortality is significantly increased. With worker bees dying off or leaving the hive altogether, the order of a colony is severely impacted.

Currently, this disease is treated with antibiotics, but the fungal strains have evolved and are becoming resistant to most available antibiotics.

On top of this, the antibiotics used are also killing off beneficial bacterial strains in the bees’ digestive systems. When this happens, the bees developed an increased risk for disease and mortality, so another option was promptly required.

What scientists discovered is that, much like probiotics help to improve digestion and immunity in humans, they provide similar benefits for bees.

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Probiotics were tested to evaluate their efficiency at preventing and treating nosemosis. Results found that the mortality rate of infected bees was decreased.

While the amount of the fungus was not reduced, the probiotics gave the bees the ability to better tolerate their presence.

The Buzz on Probiotics

Probiotics can help to boost the immune systems of bees, allowing them to better fight off invading microorganisms. Like us, bees have a host bacterial colony living in their guts that help with digestion as well as provide protection against disease.

By reinforcing this colony with probiotics, bees will have stronger defenses against the fungal infection that may contribute to colony collapse disorder.

You can help out bees yourself. In fact, large department stores already stock probiotics for Bees; just be sure you purchase the kind specifically designed for bees and follow the directions on the bottle.

Benefits of Bees

While it is obvious that we use probiotics to better our health, many may question why we need to protect the health of bees. Simply put, bees provide a number of benefits to the world, so protecting against colony collapse disorder is important.

Giving bacterial support to our neighborhood bees will ensure that the benefits keep coming.

How Bees Benefit Flora & Fauna: Bees are nature’s best pollinators, and they help ensure the continuation of several species of plants. Bees require the nectar from flowers as a food source, and in return, they transfer pollen to other areas where new plants can germinate and grow.

Visiting several plants every day allows bees to move pollen from flower to flower, fertilizing as many as needed for continued plant prosperity.

How Bees Benefit People: One out of every bite we take is plant-based food, and without bees, many plants cannot grow. The pollination services of bees support a healthy agricultural community, with bees being responsible for the pollination of the majority of our favorite flowering crops.

Apples, avocados, blueberries, broccoli, cucumber, cherries, melons, and kiwi are just a few of the crops we could not enjoy as often if it were not for bees.

The Bottom Line

Bees, like every other animal on the planet, risk exposure to dangerous bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Just as we have a built-in defense system, so do they. At times, though, this system can use help.

Adding bee probiotics to the food sources of the hive will support a healthy and strong bacterial balance in their gut, which allows them to fight off invading pathogens. Considering how much a little bee can do for you, giving it some probiotics seems the least we can do in return.

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