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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Can Mushrooms, Fungi and Mycelium help save the Honeybees?

Paul Stamets loving the bees!
Why are bees so important? Bees pollinate 80% of the world’s plants including 90 different food crops. Recently a girlfriend messaged me and asked for a resource to have some honeybees relocated that had taken up residence in her home. I was so excited that she was willing to take the time to find a responsible company that would humanly move them to a safer environment for everyone concerned. The beekeepers came and did their job, leaving behind a delicious gift of fresh honey for the family. When people take these small mindful actions, everyone wins.

So what do bees and mushrooms have in common? A few years ago I heard mycologist, Paul Stamets D.Sc., a pioneer and expert in the growth, study and preservation of mushrooms, fungus and mycelium, speak. He shared his discoveries about their relationship to saving the planet, and improving the immune system of all living creatures (humans, animals, insects, etc.), including the bees. He described how instrumental their properties are as a medicine, as well as a natural cleaner for the environment.

Stamets has authored six books and is the founder, owner, and director of Fungi Perfecti, a family-owned, environmentally friendly company specializing in using mushrooms to improve the health of the planet and all of its inhabitants. He believes that saving the old growth forest is a matter of national defense. Fungi Perfecti also produces a line of medicinal products called Host Defense® Mushrooms™ formulated to improve and support the immune system.

First, I think it’s important to know that mushrooms are fleshy fungi that reproduce through the sexual mating of germinated spores. And Mycelium is the most essential and permanent part of a fungus, a living network (fungus-like bacterial colony) that allows fungi to communicate and absorb nutrient so they can grow.  It consists of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae, visually reminiscent of the branches of a tree. Fungal colonies composed of mycelium are found in and on soil and many other substrates.

Stamets fascination and study of these spore-bearing fungi began way back when with the iconic magic mushroom. He laughs when he tells his story of going from experimenting with magic mushrooms to the edible culinary variety, and then eventually onto the medicinal benefits of them. Of course, his mother was much happier when he arrived at the latter.

He has spent decades doing in-depth research and study with regard to cleaning up the environment from toxic spills, runoff, etc. His innovative mycological solutions technology has supported a unique opportunity for implementing integrated pest management without the use of toxic pesticides, or chemicals.

While scientists believe there may be more than 60 factors (pesticides, malnutrition, loss of habitat, etc.) playing a roll in the collapsing colonies (2014 nearly half the colonies across the country died) the Varroa mite has played a significant part in their demise. This external parasite, also known as Varroa destructor, began impacting the honeybee colonies in 1996. These little bloodsucking pests invade the hives by attaching themselves to the bees (the babies are most vulnerable) and transmitting a variety of different viruses to them.

In 2014, Stamets and Steve Sheppard (chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University) and the Washington State Beekeepers Association teamed up in a research initiative called BeeFriendly™ to help reverse devastating declines in the global bee population that are critically threatening the world’s food security.

--> They conducted studies with a fungus (Metarhizium anisopliae) that has been successful in helping to kill the Varroa mite without harming the bees while concurrently feeding them mushroom mycelium based extracts. This approach reduced the mites that spread the virus and also fortifies the immune system of the bees. The mushroom extracts (Chaga, Reishi, Amadou) resulted in a 100x reduction of viruses and extended the longevity of the bees, and their colonies.  --> If you are interested in learning more about their work in saving the bees (and the planet), and/or the Host Defense® products, please visit the links below.

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