Novel use of Fomes fomentarius Mycelial Extract to Treat Trypanosome Parasite in Honey Bees

Alexandra Dombrowski

Photo of bees on a frame. Taken by Douglas Levere, UB.

Bees on a frame, captured by UB Photograher Douglas Levere.

Undergraduate Student Project

Introduction

What if we could save the bees with something in their own environment? My name is Alex Dombrowski and I am a senior in Biological Sciences. I am in the University Honors College and co-founded UB Bees.  My research investigated the use of a mushroom extract to treat bee disease. This project was my required thesis for the Biological Sciences departmental honors program. It was an independent project, meaning I came up with the idea and executed it with oversight by my faculty adviser, Dr. Dave Hoekstra, and with guidance from Dr. Jessica Poulin, the head of the biology honors program. I also worked closely with a local beekeeper, Bob Brachmann, and with researchers from the USDA ARS Bee Research lab in Beltsville, Maryland. My study served to replicate the results of a previous study, which was groundbreaking in the beekeeping world because it pioneered the use of a natural medicine to treat bee viruses. My research took the previous work a step further, investigating an alternate extract, and eventually finding that the extract is effective against a honey bee parasite, not just viruses.

Abstract

Various pathogens infecting honey bees have contributed to large annual hive losses experienced by both commercial and hobbyist beekeepers. A previous study by WSU pioneered the use of polypore mushroom extracts to reduce viral load in Apis mellifera. This study aimed to repeat and expand on those results. We investigated the effects of a Fomes fomentarius mycelial extract used in the previous study and compared the effect of a homemade extract made from fruiting bodies of the same mushroom. Low initial virus counts in the experimental hives prompted investigation into bee microorganisms other than viruses.  The mycelial extract significantly reduced the presence of Trypanosome parasites in field hives, while the fruiting body extract did not. This is a novel use of the mycelial extract, and shows promise for the future treatment of honey bee pathogens through naturally occurring compounds.

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