Honey bees, pollinators that contribute their skills to a third of our edible crops, have been suffering from a recent phenomenon called colony collapse disorder (CCD), possibly caused by a mix of pathogens, parasites, environmental stressors, climate change, pesticide and fungicide use.

While many scientists have continued to search for causes of honey bee declines, others have turned their attention to developing new, more sustainable solutions to these threats. One of the more surprising and promising of these strategies is the use of compounds produced by a widely-distributed mushroom (Metarhizium anisopliae) that is known to parasitize a number of different insects. Researchers from Washington State University have found that spores and extracts from this mushroom are particularly toxic to varroa mites but—in low doses—leave bees unharmed. In fact, bees in hives treated with Metarhizium tend to be much healthier and live longer than those in untreated hives. While large-scale trials are just now being implemented, early results suggest that a common mushroom may hold the answer to at least one major driver of honey bee declines.

This bioGraphic Magazine video by award-winning nature cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg asks, “Can Mushrooms Save the Honey Bee?

Follow this with The Hidden Beauty of Pollination, The first 21 days of a bee’s life, a time lapse in 64 seconds, and What’s the Waggle Dance?

Plus: Plant a bee-friendly garden.

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