Probiotics are a Bandage on Colony Collapse Disorder But Cause More Problems – while they have been shown to help bees withstand threats like fungal infection and pesticides – is it worth the price bees pay?
Previously, commercial probiotics have helped boost bees’ immune systems to withstand pesticides and fungal infection. But now scientists have harvested bacteria from bees’ own intestines to use instead to fight the fungal nosemosis. While we need urgent solutions for bee decline, we just have to ask….is this worth it?
Université Laval reports:
Adding probiotics to bees’ food helps make them more resistant to nosemosis, a fungal infection associated with colony collapse disorder that has been observed in Europe and North America over the past 20 years. Probiotics can decrease the mortality rate of this infection in bees by up to 40%, report researchers at Université Laval in the most recent edition of Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
Nosemosis, also called nosema disease, is caused by Nosema ceranae, a single-celled fungus of Asian origin that bees ingest with their food and that grows in the cells of their intestinal walls. “Under normal conditions, this fungus does not cause any problems for bees,” explains Nicolas Derome, professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Université Laval and lead author in the study. “But when bees are subjected to stress, the microorganism can evade their immune system, causing an infection that can impair their ability to forage, hinder larval care, disturb the bees’ orientation, and increase mortality.”
Currently, nosemosis is treated with antibiotics, but their efficacy is declining as resistant strains of the fungus have emerged. “In addition, these products can kill beneficial bacteria in the intestinal microbiota of bees,” says Derome. “We had to find other solutions to combat this disease, and that’s what gave us the idea to test probiotics.”
The researchers measured the effectiveness of four probiotics on the prevention and treatment of nosemosis in bees placed in laboratory cages. Two of these probiotics, Bactocell and Levucell, are commercial products used in pork, chicken, shrimp, and salmonid farms. The other two probiotics are bacteria that researchers have isolated from the intestinal microbiota of healthy bees. The four probiotics were administered to the bees by mixing them with sugar syrups.[emphasis mine]
Derome said, “It’s important to note that given a very high infection rate, the probiotics tested did not reduce the number of fungi present in bees, but they allowed the bees to better tolerate them.”
Case in point, these solutions do not actually solve the problem of pesticides and lowered immunity. They are there to give commercial bee farms a little more slack to keep other crops going a little longer, perhaps until they are replaced by robobees. Additionally, killing bees to harvest their bacteria is morbidly ironic considering their declining numbers. I’m personally assuming that the bee is killed when the bacteria is harvested for obvious reasons.
Interestingly, even researchers get that probiotics (whether from within or outside the bee) are only a bandage on a massive, systemic issue.
A researcher on a previous probiotic test to help bees withstand pesticide use commented:
While cessation of pesticide use would be ideal, farmers currently have little alternative to obtain the yields that keep their businesses viable. Until we can cease using pesticides, we need to find ways to protect humans and wildlife against their side effects. Probiotics may prove as an effective protective intervention against colony collapse disorder.
Likewise, the researchers for this article’s study concluded:
The tests we’ve conducted in bee colonies suggest that a particular probiotic, called P. apium, is our best candidate. We have also identified other promising microbial strains and now hope to develop a combination of probiotics to combat nosemosis in bees. However, the real solution to this disease is to identify and correct the sources of stress disrupting the bees.
(In case you were wondering – they decided getting the bacteria from inside the bee was best, thus, leading to a new industry that will kill bees just to help keep pesticides going.) Yes, we are now disemboweling bees just to prop up the lies of the pesticide industry.
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