Have You Heard the Buzz?
1. Describe the working relationship between Fungi Perfecti & WSU? How did it start, what does the research collaboration look like, etc.?
WSU: The relationship started with a phone call between Paul Stamets and Steve Sheppard. Paul described the mycelial extracts that he had already tested through the NIH and wondered if there might be a way to evaluate them in honey bees. Parasitic mites of honey bees are known to transfer and amplify viruses in honey bee colonies and Sheppard considered that reducing viruses in colonies might help ameliorate the damage done by mites. The discussion led to an agreement to initiate testing of the extracts on honey bees and has grown since that time. We have tested a large series of extracts in cages, in small colonies in the field and in large colonies in commercial beekeeping outfits. The research has also expanded to evaluate Metarhiziumfungus as a direct pathogen for parasitic Varroamites, with WSU making progress toward selective breeding for increased virulence and heat tolerance in the fungus itself.
2. What's your 60 second elevator pitch on the relationship between mushrooms and bees?
WSU: Honey bees are under great stress from parasitic mites and associated viruses. Currently there are no treatments available to help bees combat viruses. Our research with FP has demonstrated that a number of mycelial extracts significantly reduce viruses in honey bees, both in cages and in honey bee colonies. The potential of this collaboration, thus, is a real potential pathway to sustain pollination services for agriculture.
3. What stage would you say the bee research is at right now? Are there any updates you can share with concerned citizen scientists who have been following the research progress?
WSU: We are working to move beyond demonstration of the efficacy of the extracts for virus reduction in bees (and of the use of Metarhiziumto directly to kill Varroa mites) toward applications and best management practices that can help beekeepers. We are also pursuing regulatory approval for formulations that can be used by beekeepers.
4. Has collaborating with Fungi Perfecti changed the course of WSU's research at all?
WSU: It has opened up a new set of research projects in the lab that revolve around fungal honey bee interactions. As a result, we have new postdoctoral researchers and graduate students working in this area.
5. What is the number one course of action you would recommend people take to help save the bees?
WSU: Plant flowers and vegetation that provide forage for bees, educate yourself on the role of pollinators and the importance of maintaining their habitat.