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Coffee And Cigarettes Could Help Bees Beat Parasites

According to a new report published this week in the Royal Society’s Proceedings B, the nectar from flowers contains specific chemicals that could aid in fighting a parasite infection, Crithidia bombi, in bees.  Crithidia bombi is a parasite that is spread through bee feces. It lowers their ability to reproduce and to survive winter.

bees

Bumblebee/Image:AskNature

A research team from the University of Massachusetts and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire evaluated the effects of eight separate nectar compounds on 539 North American bumblebees that had been infected in the laboratory with Crithidia bombi.  Following the infection, the bees were permitted to feed on the flowers being studied. The parasite loads in individual bees were discovered to be lower.

The effective chemical compounds included: nicotine and anabasine from flowers of plants in the tobacco family, caffeine from coffee and citrus nectar, gallic acid from buckwheat nectar, amygdalin from almond nectar, aucubin and catalpol from turtlehead flowers and thymol from basswood tree nectar.

The investigative team noted that although the natural remedies in the nectars investigated may not necessarily aid individual bees all that much, they are, however, likely to lower the number of spores produced by the parasites. This means there should be a smaller number of secondary infections and the overall health of the colony should be improved.

bees

Bumblebee/Image:AskNature

Leif Richardson, the study leader, stated that more experiments could reveal whether these same chemical compounds could help honeybees, which have been in trouble in both North America and Europe due to a “colony collapse disorder.”

The research team concluded that their initial “results suggest that growing plants high in these compounds around farm fields could create a natural ‘medicine cabinet’ that improves survival of diseased bees and pollination of crops.”

Coffee And Cigarettes Could Help Bees Beat Parasites

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.