Probiotics to improve honey bee immune resilience and protect against the harmful effects of pesticides, climate change, disease, and habitat loss.
Could beneficial microbes help save honey bees?
The honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) is one of our most vital insect pollinators, responsible for nearly a third of our global food crops.¹ Yet widespread pesticide use, along with climate change, disease, and habitat loss, have contributed to a stark reduction in honey bee populations over the past decade.²
SeedLab’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid, and SeedLabs Fellow, Brendan Daisley, identified three probiotic strains—Lactobacillus plantarum Lp39, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1, and Lactobacillus kunkeei BR-1—with the potential to improve innate immune response, provide resistance against infection, and reduce the use of toxic pesticides.³So, we developed The BioPatty™, formulated with these three probiotic strains and delivered it to A. mellifera hives.
Early results are promising. Hives that administered the BioPatty™ showed a significantly lower pathogen load in both adult bees and in larvae than those without. Initial field trial observations were then reproduced in laboratory experiments, indicating that our three-strain probiotic could improve honey bee survival against Paenibacillus larvae infection, directly inhibit P. larvae cells in vitro, and modulate innate immunity when an infection was experimentally triggered.
Status of Research
Currently, Dr. Reid and Brendan Daisley are working to evaluate delivery methods that would allow beekeepers flexibility in application. Additionally, they and collaborators are continuing field studies to assess the impact of the microbial consortium on bee health, survival, and immunity.
1 Lactobacillus spp. attenuate antibiotic-induced immune and microbiota dysregulation in honey bees Brendan A. Daisley, Andrew P. Pitek, John A. Chmiel, Shaeley Gibbons, Anna M. Chernyshova, Kait F. Al, Kyrillos M. Faragalla, Jeremy P. Burton, Graham J. Thompson & Gregor Reid Commun Biol 3, 534 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-020-01259-8
2 Missing Microbes in Bees: How Systematic Depletion of Key Symbionts Erodes Immunity Brendan A. Daisley, John A. Chmiel, Andrew P. Pitek, Graham J. Thompson, Gregor ReidTrends in Microbiology, S0966-842X(20)30185-2; (2020). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tim.2020.06.006
3 Novel probiotic approach to counter Paenibacillus larvae infection in honey beesBrendan A. Daisley, Andrew P. Pitek, John A. Chmiel, Kait F. Al, Anna M. Chernyshova, Kyrillos M. Faragalla, Jeremy P. Burton, Graham J. Thompson, Gregor Reid The ISME Journal, 14(2), 476–491; (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41396-019-0541-6