Gotham Grazer Blog

Hope for Declining Honey Bees

Scientists have determined that Varroa mites are a huge danger to honey bees. These parasitic creatures suck the pollinators' blood, transmitting a number of viruses and causing rapid declines in colony health. New research being performed at Washington State University is showing that mushroom spores can actually kill off the mites, before the mites kill off the colony. This video by bioGraphic further explains the threat of the Varroa mite, and how using mushrooms as a natural killer could save millions of honey bees.

Fighting Biology with Biology

Could fungi be the best way for farmers to ward off pests?

A kudzu bug killed by  Beauveria bassiana , seen growing out of the body.  Courtesy of Brian Lovett/University of Maryland Entomology

A kudzu bug killed by Beauveria bassiana, seen growing out of the body.
Courtesy of Brian Lovett/University of Maryland Entomology

Use of fungal pesticides is on the rise, and their popularity may continue to increase over the next few years.  

What are the pros?
Most obviously, fungal pesticides do not affect human, animal or environmental health in the way that synthetic pesticides do.  They can target specific pests, rather than eradicating all biodiversity in an area.  And since they are living organisms, they can evolve with the pest, preventing resistance. 

The cons?
As of right now, fungal pesticides are more expensive than synthetic pesticides, which is an automatic turnoff for farmers.  Their effectiveness can also be altered by environmental conditions, such as humidity and temperature, making them less dependable.

For more details on this topic, check out the original article on NPR.