The bites of Bee They are annoying, yes, but let’s be honest: we cannot live without these insects. From pollination to making honey, there are many reasons we need them. Therefore, the existence of a bee virus, which is killing millions of them around the world, notably worries scientists and beekeepers.
The solution could lie in the use of pesticides, but some beekeepers worry that it represents a food safety problem, as well as being expensive. Therefore, in search of another solution, they have found the sodium butyrate, a substance naturally present in some plants, which appears to have a powerful protective effect against this bee virus.
It is the conclusion of a study, published by scientists from the National Taiwan University on iScience. But it does not only talk about the remedy. The disease. A pathology that is lethal to the insects it infects, but also to the rest of the individuals of its hive. Is that how it works.
The virus of bees that leaves them without memory
This bee virus is the misshapen wing virus (DWV), transmitted by some mites of the genus Varroa.
As its name suggests, it affects the at of these insects. It not only deforms them, but also paralyzes them, causing some to lose the ability to fly. In addition, infected bees show a shortened and swollen abdomen, as well as a loss of coloration.
Some of the infected bees do not remember how to return to the hive when they go out to look for food
But that is not all. Even if they could keep flying, they have a hard time coming home, basically because they don’t remember how to do it. The virus has been found to suppress some nerve signals and determined biological processes, related to both learning and memory. Therefore, an infected bee looking for food will not remember how to return to its hive. That is a problem for her, but also for the rest of the members of the hive, because if there are several infected specimens they can collapse due to lack of food.
The rapid rise of Varroa mites in recent years has led to more and more insects being affected by this virus from bees. Many beekeepers fear a sad outcome for their business and scientists worry about how it could affect ecosystems. Therefore, a solution has been sought in which the sodium butyrate plays a very important role.
What does sodium butyrate do?
The sodium butyrate (NaB) is a compound present in many plants, which has been studied for years due to its many properties. Among them, it has been seen that it favors the expression of genes involved in the response of the immune system, as well as in the learning. Therefore, it was considered as a possible safe and cheap weapon to produce against the bee virus carried by Varroa.
It’s sodium butyrate is a safe and cheap solution
But it was necessary to check if it is really effective. To do this, the authors of this recent study took a group of honey bees (Apis mellifera) and fed them sugar water mixed with sodium butyrate for a week. Later, they infected them with the pathogen they were concerned about.
Five days later, 90% of them were still alive. However, in another group that was also infected with DWV, but not given NaB, 90% died. Therefore, it could be said that this substance acts as a kind of vaccine, preventing the effects of the virus before infection occurs.
In addition, they conducted a second experiment in a bee farm, in whose hives they placed several monitors to follow them. The procedure lasted a month, during which only 50% of the infected bees that went out in search of food managed to return. However, when supplying the water sweetened with sodium butyrate, the percentage it amounted to 80%.
The results were very clear. However, scientists want to keep experimenting with new variables, such as seasonality. Will success rates change in different seasons of the year? We will have to wait to find out. For now, at least, we know that there is hope for the bees that fall victim to this deadly virus around the world.