We’ve talked about how mushroom mycelium are the translators of the plant world and are merchant transporters of nutrients. But lest you think that the power of fungi ends there, let’s take another look inside that mushroom kit of yours and uncover some more amazing potential fungi and their fruit have for saving our planet.
The Bee Problem
Honeybees are the tiny, buzzy pollinators responsible for much of the food you and I eat on a weekly basis. While farmers prepare the ground and plant the crops, the harvest is still relied upon largely by pollinators like insects and birds. The most important pollinator is the honey bee. Their colonies contain armies of thousands and when a freshly budding field is found, the message is spread to everyone in the colony to come and partake.
However, there has been an alarming epidemic in the last 20 years of unexplained honeybee colony collapses. In the middle of the 20th century there were as many as 5.5 million colonies in the United States. Since then the number has declined and saw a pronounced drop in the late 1980s to just 3.5 million colonies. In the last two decades after and till recently, the number of honeybee colonies hit an all-time low at just over 2 million. That means that over 50% of colonies were exterminated. But by what?
The Invisible Slayer
In the early 2000s the USDA and the CDC began to conduct research into the alarming trend of colony collapse. For years their research yielded little results. Bees can succumb to a variety of parasites and viruses, but this was obviously something different and widespread. Was it a new type of disease? A chemical? Was climate change a contributor? These were all theories, but the data was scattered and didn’t point in any one particular direction. All we knew was that bees were dying off rapidly.
A Chance Discovery, a New Hope
Recently, the reason behind colony collapse may have been finally found. Paul Stamets, renowned mycologist and mushroom farmer was walking through his garden one afternoon when he noticed some honey bees near his raised mushroom bed. Curiously, he wondered why they weren’t sucking nectar from the myriad of flowers around his property. They were scratching around in the mulch bed and had created a small depression in the soil. Crouching down, Stamets saw that they were carefully drinking droplets of amino acids released by the threadlike mycelium growing in the mulch. This wasn’t just one or two bees, but dozens. They ignored the flowers and harvested the mycelium droplets.
Stamets was struck with an idea. He collected samples and analyzed the mycelium droplets. He found a host of beneficial proteins, amino acids, and antibiotics present. He tested his theory further by synthesizing a nectar-like food infused with the mycelial fluid and fed it to control groups of bees. The results were incredible. The colonies that were fed the “Mycohoney” showed a life extension of up 30-40% longer than those without.
Stamets surmised that fungi presence and honey bee colony heath are inextricably linked. Bees have been getting their food from flowers, but their medicine from mycelium.
The Culprit Uncovered
What early researchers failed to realize in their theories was that pesticides, disease, and parasites weren’t the central cause of colony collapse. The missing link to colony collapse actually starts with fungi.
For years pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides have been used heavily in agriculture and in domestic areas to control unwanted plants and pests. Unknowingly, people have been sterilizing the ground where they grow food and where they live. When fungi are eliminated from an area, bees no longer have access to the vital, medicinal cocktail that makes them resistant to disease and chemicals. As a result, colony collapse is imminent and inevitable.
This new knowledge is groundbreaking and will hopefully lead to a transformation in how we approach farming and even domiciliary use of chemicals. We now have the knowledge we need to help bring back our bees and save our food supply. Working with fungi is the key.
Bee the Difference
Sometimes all it takes to make lasting change is to uncover something small. Our Logro customers have discovered that their grow at home mushroom kits don’t just put food on their plate, but lead to healthy conversation about our place on the planet. Get your own mushroom kit today and help spread the word about the fantastic world of fungi.
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