New research suggests yes, probiotics could indeed support bees’ immunity and help them fight back against common hive infections.
Now, if you’ve even fallen victim to a bee sting, you may very well be wondering why the heck anyone wants to save the bees?! Put simply, bees keep most of our food crops alive, so without them, we really wouldn’t have much to eat. You see bees are the head pollinators of our crops across the world, so protecting them is key to our global food system. Sadly bee colonies are on the decline, and they’re also rather susceptible to disease.
What did the researchers do?
They supplemented honey bee food with probiotics, in the form of a ‘BioPatty’, and measured the effect when they became infected with a common hive disease (produced by P. larvae).
What did they find?
When beehives were given probiotics, it reduced their pathogen load (that’s bacteria, viruses & other microbes that can cause disease) by 99%!
The probiotics increased the bees’ immune strength by increasing a certain defence gene, which in turn significantly increased their survival rate.
More research still needs to be done to find out which specific strains work best, and in what dose, before we know how to best use probiotics to protect the bees (kind of like in humans for many conditions)- but it’s looking promising for the role of probiotics in helping beekeepers protect their colonies!