Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bees 'self-medicate' when infected with some pathogens

Date:
March 30, 2012
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Honey bees "self-medicate" when their colony is infected with a harmful fungus, bringing in increased amounts of antifungal plant resins to ward off the pathogen.

When faced with pathogenic fungi, bees line their hives with more propolis - the waxy, yellow substance seen here.
Credit: Image courtesy of North Carolina State University

Research from North Carolina State University shows that honey bees "self-medicate" when their colony is infected with a harmful fungus, bringing in increased amounts of antifungal plant resins to ward off the pathogen.

Related Articles


"The colony is willing to expend the energy and effort of its worker bees to collect these resins," says Dr. Michael Simone-Finstrom, a postdoctoral research scholar in NC State's Department of Entomology and lead author of a paper describing the research. "So, clearly this behavior has evolved because the benefit to the colony exceeds the cost."

Wild honey bees normally line their hives with propolis, a mixture of plant resins and wax that has antifungal and antibacterial properties. Domesticated honey bees also use propolis, to fill in cracks in their hives. However, researchers found that, when faced with a fungal threat, bees bring in significantly more propolis -- 45 percent more, on average. The bees also physically removed infected larvae that had been parasitized by the fungus and were being used to create fungal spores.

Researchers know propolis is an effective antifungal agent because they lined some hives with a propolis extract and found that the extract significantly reduced the rate of infection.

And apparently bees can sometimes distinguish harmful fungi from harmless ones, since colonies did not bring in increased amounts of propolis when infected with harmless fungal species. Instead, the colonies relied on physically removing the spores.

However, the self-medicating behavior does have limits. Honey bee colonies infected with pathogenic bacteria did not bring in significantly more propolis -- despite the fact that the propolis also has antibacterial properties. "There was a slight increase, but it was not statistically significant," Simone-Finstrom says. "That is something we plan to follow up on."

There may be a lesson here for domestic beekeepers. "Historically, U.S. beekeepers preferred colonies that used less of this resin, because it is sticky and can be difficult to work with," Simone-Finstrom says. "Now we know that this is a characteristic worth promoting, because it seems to offer the bees some natural defense."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael D. Simone-Finstrom, Marla Spivak. Increased Resin Collection after Parasite Challenge: A Case of Self-Medication in Honey Bees? PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (3): e34601 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034601

Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Bees 'self-medicate' when infected with some pathogens." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330111027.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2012, March 30). Bees 'self-medicate' when infected with some pathogens. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330111027.htm
North Carolina State University. "Bees 'self-medicate' when infected with some pathogens." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330111027.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Around the World Take Flight

Birds Around the World Take Flight

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 22, 2014) An imperial eagle equipped with a camera spreads its wings over London. It's just one of the many birds making headlines in this week's "animal roundup". Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) The Houston Zoo released video of a male baby okapi. Okapis, also known as the "forest giraffe", are native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Video is mute from source. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins