Beneficial Microbes May Guard Bees' HealthBy
Helpful microbes that live in the hives, stored food and bodies of healthy
honey bees might hold the key to protecting tomorrow's bees from chalkbrood
The disease, caused by the harmful Ascosphaera apis fungus, can be
costly to beekeepers, growers and consumers. That's because healthy honey bees
are needed to pollinate crops ranging from apples to zucchini.
There are no chemicals registered in this country for controlling
chalkbrood. But microbes such as certain bacteria, yeasts and molds apparently
produce compounds that inhibit growth of the fungus, according to microbiologist
Gilliam of the Agricultural Research
Service's Carl Hayden Bee
Research Laboratory, Tucson, Ariz.
Gilliam has combed hives of healthy honey bees in the United States and
abroad in her search for beneficial microbes that might become the basis for a
commercial product for battling chalkbrood. To date, promising candidates
include certain Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Bacillus
Chalkbrood attacks bees when they are still white, worm-like larvae. Bee
larvae emerge from pinhead-size eggs laid by the queen bee. Later, larvae
transform into cocoon-forming pupae. Young bees emerge from the pupal cocoons.
Larvae can become infected when they eat pollen contaminated by the fungus.
Also, the nurse worker bees that tend the colony's young, or "brood,"
may inadvertently spread the fungus to the developing bees.
Larvae attacked and mummified by chalkbrood look like tiny sticks of chalk.
Mummies may be white, black, or greyish and mottled. The August issue of the ARS
monthly magazine, Agricultural Research, has details about the
chalkbrood research. See it on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contact: Martha A. Gilliam, USDA-ARS Carl Hayden Bee
Research Center, 2000 E. Allen Rd., Tucson, AZ 85719; phone: (520) 670-6380,
ext. 121, fax (520) 670- 6493, email@example.com.