Bees are particularly susceptible to diseases such as American and European foulbroods (differentiated by location of their discovery, not impact). Foulbroods are bacterial diseases that cause liquefaction or secondary infection of the larvae. The American Foulbrood disease, caused by Paenibacillus larvae, are very resilient and have existed in the environment for hundreds of years. Multiple genotypes of the bacteria exist, some that kill the larvae before the cell is capped, and others that kill the larvae after the cell is capped. Because the post-capped larvae show no signs of disease, they are often overlooked by worker bees during their maintenance and hygienic practices. Bacterial infection begins in the gut of the bee larvae, eventually penetrating the hemocoel and continuing to degrade the larval body within the comb cell. The remains of the infected larvae are characterized by a brown glue-like substance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2Aa56jut7Y. Antibiotics are used in the US; however, the only legal control option available in Europe is a complete burn-down of the infected colony.
In laboratory research the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) found in honey bees outcompete foulbrood strains on petri dishes. In some cases it actively inhibits the growth of foulbrood by slowing its growth. In bee larvae infected with foulbrood bacteria and treated with LAB, their ability to fight off the foulbrood infection increased. Research by Dr. Forsgren and her colleagues suggests that the increased use of antibiotics in beekeeping to fight off foul brood along with cultural practices such as feeding bees sugar water to reserve honey for human consumption may be harming the probiotic bacteria found in the honeybee digestive tract. These and many other factors may be causing the overall decline in honeybee health in recent years. The knowledge that we can “rescue” some aspect of honeybee health by feeding them lactic acid bacteria provides promising avenues for future treatment and management efforts for honeybee colonies. The discussion on the cost/benefit of antibiotic use in honeybee colonies may gain greater traction as more information emerges on the diverse microcosms found in the honeybee gut that make up their bodies defensive abilities.
Novel lactic acid bacteria inhibiting Paenibacillus larvae in honey bee larvae
Symbionts as Major Modulators of Insect Health: Lactic Acid Bacteria and Honeybees
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Dams, L & M. 1977. Spanish rock art depicting honey gathering during the Mesolithic. Nature. 268:228 - 230.
PloS One- Bacterial SEM from : Symbionts as Major Modulators of Insect Health: Lactic Acid Bacteria and Honeybees
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