Saving the Bees with Jennifer Han & Nick Naeger – Mushroom Revival

Saving the Bees with Jennifer Han & Nick Naeger


Today we are joined by two of the leading pioneers in apiary (beekeeping) sciences and how fungi are being applied to help fight off pests and support the immune systems of the vital honeybee. Fungi have shown up time and time again as a promising companion to improve our relationship with the planet as consumers, and today's topic is a heavy reckoning with honeybee colony collapse. We first discuss how we rely on honeybees for the incredible contribution they make to wildlife biodiversity and modern agriculture.  Jennifer and Nick then get into the weeds of the many hardships that these bee colonies are facing and the detrimental impacts that are already happening. Inspired by Paul Stamet's observation of bees foraging on the mushrooms bed at Fungi Perfecti, Jennifer and Nick's lab have worked on a number of mushroom extracts for honeybee longevity. Additionally, they have pioneered some the important work of combating varroa mites with a well known soil dwelling fungus and mycopesticide — metarhizium anisopliae.

 Show notes:

WSU Bee Lab:
Article featuring Jennifer & Nick:
The Pollinator Partnership:
Project Apis m.:



Alex 0:22
Welcome welcome mushroom family to another episode of mushroom revival podcast is a podcast dedicated to bridging the gap between you our lovely, incredible beautiful listeners and the wonderful, wacky, mysterious world of mushrooms and fungi. We are unbelievably obsessed with the healing power of mushrooms. And we bring on guests from all over the world experts that we can walk hand in hand with, into the vortex of this mysterious fungal world. And we are super excited about today's episode if you are listening on an audio streaming platform, we have a video component of this this episode. So tune in on YouTube, if you want to see a mini podcast documentary style. And as always, thank you for tuning in and shrooming in.

Lera 1:15
And today we have two very special researchers from Washington State University, Jennifer Han and Nicholas Naeger, who are both working on how fungi can help the bee population. So thank you both for being on here. And if you could just give a quick bio of yourself and how you got into this niche mycology, our listeners would love it.

Nick 1:38
Well, my background is fairly firmly in honeybees. I've been working with honey bees for 20 years now. I started out as an undergrad in molecular genetics, and I wanted to use science to do something good for the world. So originally, I was thinking maybe you know, work on something like that. But about a year and it was into my freshman year, I began to look around for labs to work in and I found a job posting for a honeybee lab. And when I went in for what I thought would be an interview, I ended up putting on a D suit and doing some work that day. It was such a fascinating place this this lab at Ohio State they were at that time running a breeding program for disease resistant bees. And then that those bees went into a neuroscience study program where they were using honeybees to study the fundamental basis of how we smell. So just sense of smell and how the brain encodes information for smell. It was fascinating work, I fairly quickly jumped fully into bees. I continued with my molecular genetics degree, but I added entomology and then went to grad school for entomology. I did beam euroscience for a while some beach genetics, but the honeybee health situation drew me to do more applied work. And Washington State University was pleased to do that.

Jennifer 2:58
My path is a little bit more convoluted. Whereas Nick has been working with bees for 20 years, um, my background, my bachelor's degrees in landscape architecture. So I was a kind of a School of Fine and Applied Arts designer. And then I got into plant biology. And my PhD is actually in plant biology. So I did a lot of research in plant breeding and genetics. And that research has kind of translated itself into mycology, which is what I'm doing a lot now where I'm looking at with my current research, breeding fungi. And, Nick, you primarily work with how fungi are how bees can benefit from mushroom extracts, so kind of using it as a medicine or remedy for them. And Jennifer, you're more focused on the myco pesticide side and tackling the varroa mites and potentially other pests who are contributing to colony collapse, correct? That is correct. I mean, loosely, it's my project versus his his project, but not really because it's a lot of collaboration. So we both do all the projects together, one of us might just take lead on one or the other, we're almost always in the lab at the same time in the field at the same time and you know, kind of working on the same project where it becomes more the division of labor is when it comes to writing. And so when it comes time to publish, she writes more of the metamerism papers and I write a little more the extract papers.

Alex 4:27
Save the bees. I hear I hear that phrase so often and and a lot of people talking about colony collapse. And from what I read and it's very surface level, I assume you guys are way more experts on this topic than than I am. But there's many different ways that that bees are affected. And can you just tell our listeners, why are bees so important for ecosystems?

Nick 4:59
The number one way that bees are important for the ecosystem is their pollination of plants. You know, most plants that you see out in the environment aren't angiosperms, they are flowering plants. And many of those require insect pollination, to carry the pollen from plant to plant, and then the plant can finally produce seeds and fruit and so on. And so a lot of plants really rely on insect pollinators to do this job of carrying pollen around and without them. We just wouldn't have fruits and seeds from many of the plants that are out there. This would include a lot of the foods that we eat. So you know, apples, cherries, and so on. A lot of the berries and all these are very dependent on insect pollination and among the insects. honeybees are the best pollinators. They actually eat some of the pollen for some of their nutrition, they get almost all their nutrition from flowers, and so they are absolutely excellent pollinators. So bees are when there's kind of Keystone groups of species that help keep the rest of the ecosystem together. Without bees and other insect pollinators. A lot of plants would die out without those plants in the ecosystem. It's hard to imagine very many ecosystems without the angiosperm flowering plants as part of them.

Lera 6:13
So bumblebees are also very productive pollinators. And we have a friend at UMass who's working on similar research and how mushroom extracts can benefit their immune systems to combat whatever viral diseases they're dealing with. Why is the honeybee your focus is that just because people tend to have more honeybee colonies and there you can maintain them for over a year. I'm pretty sure the bumblebee only lasts for a year. But yeah, and do you foresee the researcher doing also applicable to other species of bees?

Nick 6:48
Yeah, I can feel this one. Um, honey bees are special and unique in a few ways. bumblebees do really well in small settings like a greenhouse. By the time you get to huge orchards, it's very hard to get the number of bees that you need to pollinate all of these crops at the same time. So when we take these to the almond orchards in California, we're literally talking about square miles of almonds blooming all at once. A bumble bee colony may have 50, maybe 400 members in the colony, a honeybee colony will have 20,000, maybe as high as 40, or 50,000. So the number of bees you can get using honeybees, as opposed to bumblebees, is much higher. honeybees also have the advantage that the colony just keeps going year after year. And if you take a colony out of the winter in Canada, you take it down to Southern California where it's warm, it will immediately kind of kick into gear and start foraging. If foods available, they will take you know the opportunity, they're not really locked into the season, the way a lot of other bee species are.

Jennifer 8:04
And that's another thing about bumble bees is they don't start off in January, February as a full grown colony. Right. Whereas these honeybee hives that we bring down, they're full colonies that are ready for pollination in February when the almonds need it in California. Yeah, mostly we're talking about like, millions of bees,

Nick 8:23
Most wild bumble bee colonies in February are going to have one individual, a mated queen. And that's it. And that's just not enough to do major pollination, especially early in the season. So honeybees have several of these unique properties, we can also put them on a truck, they won't be able to eat or forage for a couple days, put them down in somewhere they've never seen before. And they do their thing. It's a fairly remarkable bit of behavioral plasticity, as we call it, that they can just adapt to whatever environment they're in and start pollinating, gathering food making baby bees and they do their thing in these multitude of environments. And they're just very responsive to what environment they're in at the time. And so yeah, honey bees are really good and a lot of ways for small operations. However, I will say bumble bees, orchard bees, leaf cutter bees, there's many other options to do pollination. If you have a small farm, especially if you have multiple crops and so on, then yeah, and you know, these other bees are definitely an option. But if you have hundreds of acres of monoculture orchard, honeybees are probably the way you're gonna need to go to get the numbers that you need to do all of that pollination.

Alex 9:41
And I'm sure, sometimes they're a little bit finicky, especially if they're on a flatbed of a truck for multiple days. And they're all you know, similar genetics across the country. And, you know, from all these different experiments, I'm sure a million and a half things go wrong. Wrong. I mean, just from our farming of cordyceps. There's just the smallest little mistakes that we made. And it's like months of work gone. And it's just like piles of mold. We're now mold farmers, you know, and and I'm sure it's the same, maybe with beekeeping. And what I've heard, I've never actually kept my own bees, but I had really great friends. One One of my friends was a great beekeeper in Massachusetts. And he was doing this project actually another, another friend for Massachusetts doing a project with mushroom extracts and bees. And he was doing it on honeybees, I don't know, four years ago, and he was doing this project for how to know how many months and it was in a community garden. So other people had access to the hive. And one of the though, the girls in the community garden their dad came to visit for a weekend and I guess he was a hobby beekeeper and he opened the hives and I guess sprayed it with some chemicals or something, he thought he would be benefiting. And he killed them all and and my friend Ori he was like days away from finishing and collecting all of his his data. And he's like users, this is months of research. And so I'm I'm curious to hear some of those kind of horror stories from you guys on. I know, Jennifer, you said it was a convoluted path to get to get to this point. And before we jumped on you were talking about some bees dying and they actually have a smell. I'm just curious, like, what what was the hardest parts of this research? And what was and how did you overcome that?

Jennifer 11:46
That's a great question. So there are lots of difficulties with beekeeping. I mean, when people ask how do I save the bees, I never respond, get a hive because it's just too hard for an unexperienced person to keep a hive alive. It's a lot of work and a lot of money and a lot of time, and they'll probably going to die anyway. Now, that's a little depressing. But it is difficult especially for me because my background wasn't in beekeeping. So my first month here, I was opening up hives and doing research with bees that I've never dealt with before. I'm a plant person, I'm used to things like maybe they can hurt you because they exude an enzyme. So you know, wash your hands. That was a biggest risk I was used to not these guys will sting you and that's gonna hurt like hell. So that was a big thing for me to overcome was just mentally as someone who's not a born entomologist, to get over the fear of bees a little bit, but once you do you realize they're actually quite fascinating creatures. So you're talking about earlier we were mentioning that dead bees do have a smell. And there are other fun things about bees that you'll notice as you just observe them in your experiments. The way they'll groom each other is the most adorable thing are when they clean themselves that this put their little antennae through their legs. And yeah, it's a lot of fun.

Nick 13:08
Yeah, I hadn't you know, having worked with these for a while had plenty of beekeeping horror stories, including what was going to be my undergrad senior honors thesis got killed in a be war. So what can happen is in the fall when there are not very many flowers in bloom, the hives can switch from forging on flowers to trying to rob honey from each other. And when this happens, all the hives get simultaneously aggressive and defensive. And my little research colonies did not have the number of guards that they needed to fend off these attacks coming from all of the other colonies. And so my research colonies were killed off in this be war that happened. And they do send the the bees know, which are the weak colonies, they'll pick on the weak ones. That is true. Yeah. And once one gets in that she's likely to keep coming back and really take me on now that colony and steal food away from it. I also had some of my Masters research swarm and fly away. So I had been following individually painted bees for two weeks, and then they flew off and I could see them way up in the tree tops for a little bit. And then they really flew off and never saw them again. Most recently, I'd say kind of my biggest frustration was two years ago, we had a massive Yellow Jacket. Yeah, on one of our experiments and we could pretty much triangulate where the colonies were by the hives that were getting attacked, because just like they were going down the roof finishing off and eating to death a colony and then it's neighbor and then its neighbor. It was really difficult and once you're into the late season, it's very hard to control Yellowjackets unless you find the colony and directly kill it. So yeah, that was very difficult because you know, it was in Killeen our experiment kind of group by group and so we had to call the entire experiment off earlier than we wanted to because all of our treatment colleagues were getting killed by yellow jackets and or control colonies were not because they were slightly different areas.

Alex 15:22
Is it is it true I, maybe it was planet earth or some some nature documentary, but I and I think it was honeybees. Maybe it was bumblebees, swarming around a hornet and basically creating enough heat to kill the Hornet just with their body heat. Is that true? Do do honeybees do that?

Nick 15:45
Yes, this is a very appropriate because of coordinate that they're killing is we've got one here the Asian giant Hornet depend we have Yeah. This is this is a picture of the quote unquote murder Hornets. These have existed in China in Japan for a long time. And bees in China and Japan have had to deal with these for a long time. nobody's talking about honeybees. He's not talking about the honeybees that you see around here. So this is one of the important distinctions is the native be to that area isn't apice mellifera, the honeybee that we have, it's this Aqua serrana, that Eastern Asian honeybee. And that honeybee has evolved with the role of might the or Asian giant Hornet. Several of these pests and predators that we are now having to deal with. This ancient honeybee has dealt with it for a long time. And so they have several fantastic defenses against these things. So in the case of the giant Hornet, the Hornet is armored, and the bees cannot sing through it. And the horn it's also particularly insidious, and that is trying to eat the bees and the brood, the baby bees and so on. It's really trying to eat the colony, not just steal some honey. So it's bad news for a beekeeper and for the bees. So what this Asian honeybee has a defense is it can ball around this invading Hornet and they can ship or their flight muscles. So honeybees thermo regulate their hives during the winter by you know eating honey shivering their flight muscles producing heat and keeping the high form well these Asian honeybees can use this, you know shivering trick producing heat, they can use it to cook a hornet to death. So the ball around the Hornet and all those fees will begin to shake their flight muscles and shiver and produce all of this heat. And the bees can withstand a much higher temperature while I say a much higher a few degrees anyway, higher temperature than the Hornet can. And so if there's a way that they can kill the Hornet without being able to stick it, they just literally cook it to death. There's another example from the Mediterranean Mediterranean area where those bees evolved in response to a wasp that they couldn't stink to death, where the ball around the abdomen compress the abdomen of the wasp and basically suffocate it. So there's another trick that the bees have. Another one that the East Asian honeybee has is when the first Hornet arrives that horn and after finding the honeybee nest will mark it with a pheromone and that calls in all the other Hornets. Remarkably, the honeybees will notice that and they will go out and forage on the foul list smelling things they can find. And I do mean like chicken, excrement and so on, spread that over the entrance of the hive and mask that pheromones signal. They would rather have their hive smelling like crap, and have those Hornets coming in so many remarkable behaviors. Now, the problem is the honeybees we have, they don't have an evolutionary history with these pests, and they do not have these defensive behaviors.

Jennifer 18:57
So that's why there's a large concern over the giant Hornet being here in Washington and on Canada. It's because our honeybees here aren't equipped to deal with this problem.

Nick 19:09
Yes, and in those cases, the Hornets really can take down the hive. And it's just another problem that we do not need.

Lera 19:16
No. And all of this is such a testament to the bees intelligence and importance to the ecosystem, but also its fragility. And I know that the Hornets are an issue the varroa mites are an issue. What are the things are causing colony collapse? I've heard anecdotes about GMO food and GMO crops potentially harming them. What else is happening to these bees aside from the varroa mites and murder Hornet? I think one of the biggest issues is just habitat loss.

Jennifer 19:53
A lot of these issues I think wouldn't be nearly as bad if the bees were just in general healthier and you can imagine the way we treat our honeybee colonies now, especially these commercial colonies, they're going from a diet of only all men, to only apples to only cherries, right? And so that can't be good for just your whole nutrition. Right. And so I think having good forage, so a lot of wildflower is different for to diversity, because different plants have different nutrient profiles within their nectar and within their pollen. So not one single plant is a complete diet, if you will, the diversity is what these really need to stay healthy. And so I think if they had a better habitat and more forage, they would, in general, be healthier. And if they're healthier, they're better equipped to deal with Varroa. better equipped to deal with viruses. They're better to deal with pesticides and all the other issues that come about.

We have other thoughts, Nick?

Nick 20:52
No, it's very much true, these commercial colonies have a lot of nutritional stress. But when we look kind of at the big picture of pollinators across the US, it seems like all of them are in decline. Even birds and bats are having issues. And so birds and bats can handle pesticides quite well, it seems more general habitat loss is driving a lot of the big picture. And then yes, all the nutritional stress that comes with that. You know, we have situations where, where we live in Washington's a heavily agricultural area, it's almost edge to edge fields, there's not a lot of wild habitat. And then we have issues where invasive weeds come in. And so he will spray all you know, they'll use broad spectrum herbicides and the few remaining ditch flowers that we have. And so you know, there's very little wild habitat out there. And this is particularly an issue where here in eastern Washington is very dry. Also, the bees really have to make their key. If we don't move them around, they have to make their key basically from April to July. So they just have this few months to really build up make all their honey and then hunker down for a very dry August, September, October. There's no food in November, they go into winter, and they have to last until March and early April. So very stressful when there's a lack of wild flowers and natural habitat around just a lack of diversity. And yeah, we it's hard to find a flower in the fall around here and a very unfortunate way.

Jennifer 22:33
Right And so again, when people say what can I do to help the bees, the biggest thing is plant more flowers and just make sure the flowers you do plant are pollinator friendly, because a lot of landscape, cultural cultivars have been bred for petals or whatnot and they might not actually still produce the right kind of nectar or pollen anymore. So make sure the plants that you do plant are good for pollinators. Yes. And in that way, if you do plant pollinator habitat, then you're helping all of the pollinators not just bees, not just honeybees, but their native bees and a lot of other native pollinators, right? You can hold the butterflies and so on. They all get helped out.

Alex 23:10
Do you have a good source for for wild flowers? Is there a specific for the region I'm sure there's different wildflowers depending on where you live and this might, you know, be for the US. I know we have the listeners from all over the world but I don't know if you know a global supplier as well or just a local local shop.

Nick 23:33
For a long time we were planting. There are several groups that made the flower mixes

Jennifer 23:40
Like Burpee makes, I think burpee does a lot of pollinator mixes. But what you were saying before is very important. Make sure it's good for where your region is because some plants that are fine for some regions are considered invasive, noxious weeds and others. So just getting a general pollinator mix may not be appropriate.

Nick 24:02
Yeah, the seed packet mixes are not hard to find online. One things we did in our yard this year was a lot of zinnias, lots of different colors and shapes. And it seems like butterflies and bees like all the pollinators enjoy it. Yeah. And they're pretty and they bloom from June to the first frost, which is quite nice.

Alex 24:24
You're talking about habitat and um, it got me thinking the first time I met my friend Henri, who is the beekeeper in Massachusetts. He started raving about why do we put these in a square box when in the wild? They're an oval. And he was just going off on, you know, traditional beekeeping. They mimicked the oval shaped, and they I believe it was Egypt and I think maybe a few other countries as well. But he was like wow. Why don't we do that that's, that's It's nuts. And it's probably stressing the bees out, which is further, you know, causing colony collapse and kind of what you're talking about is, is really fixing the environment. And and that's kind of the closest thing to home and Home is where we kick our shoes off and de stress and if you're stressed out in your home, yeah, where can you catch a break? Have you? Have you played with that before? Are there any good height makers that make ovals? Is there is does it actually not work at all?

Jennifer 25:37
Well, I think it has a lot more to do with the ease and the regularity with the frames that we have. You can talk

Nick 25:43
Yeah, that the monitor beehive was invented over 150 years ago and has not changed much. And you do find that bees tend to use the corners of the hives last, you'll find empty comb in the corners, because the cluster that they make to stay warm is round, or you know, at least football shaped. And so yeah, they tend to it's kind of a waste of space for them. And it's probably a bit of a loss in terms of heating the extra space. But on the other side, it's very easy to move frames around and trade frames and do things like that, right?

Jennifer 26:19
Because everything standard and the same. And if you're taking a lot of care of your bees, you're gonna want to move things around and check on them fairly often.

Nick 26:29
Yeah, um, another interesting thing Tom Seeley researcher at Cornell, he did some interesting experiments where he used swarms of bees, and he would present them with different hive boxes and basically say, hey, bees, what sorts of homes Do you prefer, and basically, let the bees tell them what they liked. And he did some experience with these different shapes of the hive. And it didn't seem to matter so much the overall volume was more important than that. And then they also like higher off the ground, smaller entrances to defend some things like that. But if I remember right, kind of a more cubic hive versus a longer rectangle did not matter much to them. These are fairly adaptable. I think they do decently well in the square boxes. One thing that I will bring up since we talked about habitat loss, one of the primary hive components is foraged tree sap. So honey bees forage on tree sap, and they turn into a substance called propolis, which becomes like home somewhere between chewing gum and a hard glue. And they will use this to seal up cracks in the hive, waterproof it, glue bits together. And it's another important thing that the bees forage on. And when they well, another important aspect is this propolis then having the tree sap has all sorts of antimicrobial compounds that are in it. So bees have forage on higher propolis are somewhat resistant to some of the fungal diseases and other microbial diseases that the bees can get. So another important aspect of habitat is not just the flowers but having some other wild areas where the bees could forage on poplar or pine resins or so on to take back to the hive.

Lera 28:17
So in addition to habitat issues, there's the pests and I know you guys were targeting varroa mites in particular and is this problem unique to human kept bee colonies or do you see this in any bee colony in North America?

Jennifer 28:34
Varroa mites are an issue for honeybees in general, I think if you find any feral swarms that are gonna have Varroa. So it's not just a human issue.

Nick 28:47
Yeah, some of the estimates done mainly on the east coast of the US estimated that 90% of the wild hives were killed by Varroa. And so you know, the wild population absolutely plummeted. When the myco came to the US. It came in 1986 or so mid to late 80s is when they arrived in the US Hmm, By the mid 90s. They were far spread pretty much everywhere. However, they weren't causing the same sort of devastation. Yes, they are now, they were not as deadly back then. When I first started beekeeping and you know 2000 2001 we could find a colony with these really high Mike levels, and we could treat them with a chemical might aside the mind decides worked back then you could get the mite levels down and the bees would survive. And you know, they could survive the winter and at least limp along to the spring and be okay. Now, a much lower number of mites will not only crash the colony population, but then what happens is when you treat for mites, the bees don't seem to bounce back in the same way that they used to a big chunk of that is viruses that the mites are spreading around. So even when we treat for the mites, the viruses linger in the high for a period of time. And it's hard to get a nice healthy set of bees to survive through the winter. So, you know, before we could find a problem colony in September, still get it to survive the winter. Now, you always have to get your problems fixed by, you know, July or August, so that the can, the hive can raise a healthy set of bees in September to then get through the winter. Because Yeah, those bees that are born when the mite levels are high, their lifespan is far too short, they die off too quickly.

Jennifer 30:42
So backtrack just a little bit. For people who don't know, these raise different kinds of bees throughout different parts of the year. So in the fall, they raised what we call, quote, winter bees. And so these ones survive a lot longer than the ones that are born in say, April or March. And so yeah, if they have viruses, these ones that are supposed to last all winter just don't, or they come out really weak and not in good shape.

Nick 31:13
One thing that kind of fits into all this is, you can begin to see how all of the different problems facing the bees compound each other because a pesticide, the bees might survive it, but it shortens their lifespan. The mites will shorten their lifespan, then the viruses will shorten their lifespan. All these things work together to where each worker that the hive creates, doesn't live long enough to pay back that investment to the colony. And so rather than the colony slowly growing over time, it just crashes. And the population goes down, not enough young keys are being raised, you know, the individuals living a short time then compounds to the hive living in a short time. And yeah, it's really difficult than to disentangle all of these little stressors that the bees are dealing with right now. It's hard to find a pesticide free environment, it's pretty much impossible to find a mite free environment. And now we're finding viruses in almost every single heifer that we test. So um, yeah, these problems are everywhere, and they're feeding on each other. And that was part of the whole come colony collapse disorder phenomenon, there was no single smoking gun to point to and say that's a problem. Instead, it was all of these things kind of building up together until we hit a tipping point.

Alex 32:37
So this is where mushrooms and you two come in to save the day on totally, you know, different strategies, but they all are interconnected. And I think they work together beautifully. Well, like you. You said it perfectly of you know, it's, this one knocks it down a little bit. This one knocks it down a little bit. And when you put them all together, we have a collapse. And so how can mushroom save the day we're going to start with metamerism which is an entomopathogenic fungi or a fungi that attacks anthropods or insects, and particularly the varroa mites. So are you using that me too? Me MET 52 strain from Novozymes which was just patented by Monsanto now Bayer

Jennifer 33:32
Right. It was it's been bought many a times by several companies.

Lera 33:36
Yeah. Within telling us how you're using metamerism kind of help us visualize how these mites are getting into these hives and what exactly they're doing. So it seems like they're spreading viruses, but how are they sharing the honey? And then you're some sort of contamination? Are they biting the bees? Like how are the mites actually harming these colonies?

Jennifer 33:58
Kind of gruesome in a way, these are Ecto parasitic parasites. So they'll latch on to the honeybee, and using their mouthparts they'll more or less excavate a hole into their exoskeleton and then they'll kind of dig up the soft tissue and eat it. And so while they're digging that up, their mouth parts are kind of dirty and with that, that's where the exchange on the transmission of viruses can go between the Varroa and the honeybee is when they're feeding.

Nick 34:28
Yeah, fairly similar to mosquitoes and malaria. The mic just kind of thumb spreads it around a bit of a dirty needle phenomenon. And the mites are very sloppy fears compared to a mosquito and they really do a significant amount of damage to the bees

Jennifer 34:46
And I've heard the size compared as a Imagine if you had like a dinner plate on your back that would be like a varroa mite on the be roughly in size. So something like that just living on you. 24 seven Just eating your good stuff

Nick 35:02
It's like being parasitized by a rabbit. Um, yeah, so significantly sized parasite and it does do significant damage. The real problem is that this might reproduces in the pupil honeybee on the pupi. And so um, you know, it does so the pupil casein in the honeycomb is all sealed up and protected from the other bees. And that's where the mite reproduces, and the little pupa has no defense against it. And so these mites because, you know, suck away at the, the hemolymph and the mainly the soft tissue fat that surrounds the exoskeleton on the inside of it.

Jennifer 35:43
And that's a big deal. Because that soft tissue, the fatty tissue there is responsible for a lot of things, including some of their immunity. And so when it's feeding on that it's, you know, lowering the honeybees defenses in its immunity to other pathogens and other pesticides and all sorts of things. So again, it just knocks everything out.

Nick 36:02
Yeah, analogously they're not just getting physical fat, but they're scraping away the organ that is the honeybees liver. It does all the detoxification and some of the immune work also. And so yeah, this might is really quite an ugly, you know, parasite. And, you know, 20 years ago, it was kind of rare to find it been so bad that it would kill pupi, the V was still emerged as an adult. Now we find dead poopy. And it's clear that mites getting worse in some ways. And it's very sad. When we have these in the lab to watch a poor little bee larvae up with a mite on it, score messes getting bitten, and

Jennifer 36:47
there's nothing you can do, and they can do. And I guess I should backtrack to and just say that the girl might if people don't know is not a native parasite of the honeybee that we know this is a native parasite of the Eastern honeybee that Eva serrana that Nick was talking about earlier, that has defenses against the giant Asian Hornet. And so I think that has a lot to do why it's particularly bad for atheists Mullah for the honeybees that we have here is they have co evolved together.

Nick 37:15
The Asian honeybee has some fun defenses against Varroa. what it can do is if it detects a mite in a poopy, it will actually Entomb that pupa so it will never come out and the might end the bee dies but the the hive completely encases it so that light can never come back out. However honey bee doesn't have that.

Alex 37:37
How, how can metarhizium help?

Jennifer 37:40
Okay, so we are using metarhizium as an alternative a parasite to deal with the varroa mite. So currently, there's a lot of different synthetic chemical parasites out there. And some of them are some work some of them there's lots of reports of losing their efficacy. So I think there is a real need to find something that can work against these Varroa especially something that may be more of a long term solution. Because again, with these Varroa they reproduce so quickly that resistance it's a pessimistic thing to say, but seems almost inevitable with some of these chemicals out there. It just is a matter of time.

Nick 38:23
Yes. And just my time beekeeping, we've gone through a chemical called appa Stan, that worked, and then it didn't. And then there's no organophosphate pesticide cooma FOSS that worked for a while, and then it didn't. And recently, the industry has been propped up a lot by amitraz. And now that chemical might appear to be evolving resistance to it also. And so yes, we would love to have some non chemical alternative that worked. And another thing we should point out is these might asides that we put into the hive. It's a net positive for the bees because the mites are absolutely deadly if you let the infection go. But these vitus sites are not entirely harmless to the bees. Some people have pointed out that it can cause sperm deficiencies, and perhaps some reproductive deficiencies in the Queen also. So again, we might not see the immediate effect, you know, in terms like dead bees, so this might decide seems fairly safe. But then the Queen needs to be replaced earlier because she can't leave fertile eggs anymore. So these might asides. We'd like to move past chemical microsites into something a little safer for the bees and something where the mites have harder time evolving resistance to it. Right. So

Jennifer 39:45
that's one of the advantages of just biological controls in general is that there's often a lower case of resistance, or at least a delayed time development of resistance between the past and what you're using. And so that's why we're looking At metamerism. And we've done. We started with my metamerism, I think, because there were some initial trials done by the USDA at in Michigan,

Nick 40:11
I believe Utah in Florida.

Jennifer 40:13
Yeah. Where they were looking at metamerism. And they, their initial studies seemed promising. They found some efficacy. And so we decided we try to take that a step further, because one of their biggest issues was that the fungus wasn't surviving long in the hive. Because if you guys don't know what meta resume is, it's a soil dwelling fungus, right. And so you can imagine what the temperature is in the soil would be compared to a beehive where the bees thermo regulate, and they like it around 30 to 35. c,

Nick 40:48
at nearly your body temperature, they keep the hive nice and warm.

Jennifer 40:52
And so that was one of the biggest obstacles I think that a lot of these other labs have. And so I think that's maybe why that research was kind of peddled off for a little while. But we decided to pick that back up with I think, some encouragement from Paul Stamets.

Nick 41:09
Yeah, yeah, do you want to tell us about the lifecycle of metarhizium, and how it kills?

Jennifer 41:15
Sure. So I'm assuming your followers know a lot about mushrooms, or at least know something about fungi since they're listening to this and have an interest in it. So this is not your typical, what you think of as quarter set mushrooms where it grows of a fruiting body out the head of the ant or whatnot. This is more of what would look like if you would a mold, if you will. So what happens is the spore lands on the exoskeleton of the varroa mite, it grows a little infection peg and burrows through the exoskeleton, and then it proliferates inside the grow. And, and this strain of metamerism. This species produces compound called destructions. Based on its name, you can imagine it's quite deadly. So these destructions, right, very aptly named destructions, will kill the insect. And so once it's dead, the fungi will begin its asexual reproduction and busts through the exoskeleton and make all these conidia, there are sexual spores.

Nick 42:28
Yeah, that being said, we do not get a lot of multi generational metamerism. When we treat a colony, it looks like that. When we bring the mites into the lab, we grow fungus back out of them, but they do not produce much spores on the dead mites in the hive. At first, I thought this was kind of disappointing, you saw it be nice to get a little ecosystem of bio control going in the hive. But I think it's actually an advantage, because that means we can control the strain a little bit better. We do not want to go in you know unbridled evolution as a pathogen in the hive. And so it'd be kind of nice if the effects are fairly short term. And that way we can continue to make sure with selection in the lab, that it will only infect and kill mites as very safe for bees. And it won't evolve into something different held in the hive.

Jennifer 43:20
When he mentioned that, that's another thing I should mention is one of the reasons that we looked at this fungus is it's unnatural to native fungus. So it's a native soil fungus throughout all of the US found throughout most of the world, which is a big deal. Because I know a lot of issues when people look at bio biological control agents is oftentimes introducing something new to the ecosystem to deal with a new problem. You don't want to add something exotic to deal with something exotic, right? Because then you have to, you know, bring in the snake to kill the rat to kill the tip, you know. So this is really nice. It's already there. And so we're not adding anything new to the environment that isn't already existing.

Nick 44:03
Yeah, the only thing we're really doing is pushing the fungus to be a more effective killer of mites and making sure that we get no hint of honeybee infection.

Jennifer 44:13
I mean, I went to our community gardens here where we live in Pullman. And I dug up a shovel full of soil and took it back to the lab and I was able to isolate my, this fungus from just the community garden few blocks down the street. So again, it's really nice because it's there and it makes me less nervous about again, releasing some sort of strain that could possibly go out of control.

Lera 44:36
Yeah, metarhizum is a very productive and probably the go to myco pesticide. At least that's actual fungus based. And it's not currently affecting honeybees, which is great. And I imagine that you guys will work hard to keep it that way. But why not? Because metarhizium will in fact, dozens and dozens of different insects. So what about the honeybee? is saving themselves from this infection?

Jennifer 45:04
I don't know if there's a definitive answer, I have a lot of hypotheses as to why. I will say within all of our experiments and all of our trials, we haven't seen an increase mortality in honeybees with the treatments. So like you said, clearly, they don't seem to be affected by this. And I think some of it might have to do with the mode of action with which these spores infect and kill insects, right, that has to get onto the exoskeleton there receives chemical cues with a cuticle, the exoskeleton to let it know it's the appropriate host. And then it germinates and all of that. But honeybees are incredibly fuzzy. And this can work to their advantage I think some of their hair is is just physically keeping the spores off of their exoskeleton. And if they don't make that contact, they can never, they won't ever germinate. So I think that might have something to do with that. And these hairs are also like negatively charged, because it helps trap pollen. So they're they're trying to so I think that might also just be helping trap these fungal spores again, keeping that from the bees to keep them safe.

Nick 46:11
Bees are also excellent groomers, they groom their body very well. And there is a stage with this fungus where when it's initially germinating, it has to kind of drill through the exoskeleton of the host. During that stage, it's a little fragile. And if a honeybee simply grooms over it it will break off that little germination tube, and you know it can't get in. Now, that being said, we've also tested it on larvae, which do not have hair do not have much behavior, and they seem naturally resistant. So it seems that there is some internal immune factor that the bees are really good at fighting off this infection if it does get to them. They just seem naturally immune. And so yeah, we'd spend something as it's made our work easier. Yeah.

Alex 47:03
No shade no November for the bees.

Nick 47:06
Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

Jennifer 47:08
On a side note, Nick in previous research has made tiny razors for bees to shave off their hairs. No way.

Nick 47:15
That is true. I studied gret I studied gravity, perception and honeybees. And there were these papers pointing to these mechanics sensory hairs on their neck as being particularly important for gravity perception and suit to test this hypothesis, I shaved them off. So I I broke apart a safety razor cut that blade into microscopic little scalpels, and I shaved a neath anesthetized bees with these little mini scalpels until they had no fear around their neck, and actually showed that they could still perceive gravity just fine.

Alex 47:52
It's like whiskers for a cat is don't whiskers do the same thing.

Jennifer 47:58
I heard that they helped them like perceive width maybe?

Nick 48:02
Yeah, no, no, the size of holes. Yeah, and too, and so on. Yeah, with bees, they have a bit of a problem with the exoskeleton, their skin doesn't stretch, they have some problems perceiving their own body's position relative to itself. And so they actually have mechanosensory hairs in their joints to help them perceive their own body.

Alex 48:24
So how how do you apply this say, you know, this was a commercial product? And you know, some beekeepers wanted to use it in their hives. Is this a spore spray? Is this just spores? Or an oil? Or do you just spray it everywhere? Is it specific spots? How does it work?

Jennifer 48:44
So fantastic question. So that's actually kind of where we're at right now in our research is trying to figure out what's the most appropriate delivery method for these spores. So during our initial research and trials, I did the easiest method possible, which is I grew it on a petri dish, and I flipped the petri dish over, I pulled out the auger plate and just put it in the hive upside down so that the spores were kind of raining down on the beads, if you will. I think well, that works for research purposes. If this were to be a more applicable thing, especially for commercial beekeepers, where they have 1000s of hives, we're thinking maybe something a little bit more easy for an application. So we're currently looking at growing it on grains, and possibly using them as grain bags or maybe inserting it into like a existing frame. We're also looking at different synthetic materials like felt, and impregnating that with the fungus. There's a couple of routes that we're looking at.

Nick 49:53
So one of my favorite ones for those that have the video component. I'll hold it up to the camera. This is a little bit Bag made from banana fibers, and the bees can queue it up over. And so if we grow the fungus on a grain, we can put this mesh bag of grain into the hive, spores can fall out of the mesh. But then as the bees cue it away, because they don't like this foreign thing in their hive, they chew the bag, they begin to spill the grain all over the place, he's crawled into the bag and pull the grain out, they end up spreading the spores around as they work it. And if you come back, three or four weeks later, all you find is a few fibers. But most of the bag has been chewed away and cleaned out.

Jennifer 50:39
And it's really nice, because again, it's made with banana fiber. So it's a nice natural fiber, we're not concerned about putting something you know, too weird in hive.

Alex 50:48
Hopefully they don't eat any of this spores.

Nick 50:52
Well, we have a project going right now with bees and the militaris Ium fungus in cages. The cage trials are completed and we're analyzing the results. Our preliminary results so far suggests that the bees that are exposed to this fungus, they're about the same or maybe slightly better off and their immune system. So something kind of interesting, if this bore is non infectious to the bees. If they can fight it off easily, then it could be nutritional for them. Or it could even act like a vaccine to help boost their immune system against microbial pathogens,

Jennifer 51:32
it might just trigger a response even though it's not pathogenic. That might just amp up their immune system.

Alex 51:39
We actually have metarhizium in two grain jars right now and we nothing to do with bees. But for for cockroaches. Actually, we had a few running around our house that we saw. We just moved into this house in Austin, Texas, in June and first time really dealing with cockroaches and sort of like Oh, man, we got a we got to do some myco pesticides up in here. And we just caught a live cockroach like a week ago. Yeah,

Lera 52:10
I caught a nice ago, two days ago.

Alex 52:12
And we put it in and it took a while it was definitely kind of like wow, I'm trapped. Definitely was freaking out. But then we saw it a few like a few days ago. It was twitching. But it was still live. But it was it was like I you know,

Lera 52:30
Yeah, I was having a hard time.

Alex 52:32
Yeah. Now Now it's it's it's almost covered with mycelium. And we actually since then caught another one and put it in there. And it was like, Oh, I know what happened to my friend. I I am not excited for what's about to happen. And it hasn't he can see his phone. But yeah, I think it like kind of climbed on top of it and was maybe trying to move it or something. But it was like, oh, oh no, this is a minute. in too deep.

Lera 53:03
So I have some some follow up questions with this might issue before I jump into the extracts. But number one, if bees are such good groomers, why don't they ever pick off the mites from themselves? I mean, if I'm imagining a rabbit sized pest, I feel like I could just you know, get that. Get that thing off. And then the second question is, does the metamerism have any impact on bees that are already bitten? Will that fungus ever kill the mite that's currently biting a bee?

Nick 53:34
I see the second question, the answer is probably not. I mean, the fungus would have to go through the exoskeleton of the mic. I think and I don't think there's any way that the sport could be into the B system in an intact living way that the mic could ingest it later. But if the spores are in the hairs of the honeybee and the microbes through them, then they will definitely get infected that way. The first question is a little harder to answer without diagrams. But in short, I was listening to this the other day watching the bee trying to groom a mic off and failing miserably or

Jennifer 54:14
little legs. She was trying so hard. Yeah.

Nick 54:16
So the first thing is that the mics are very flat. So when Jennifer made the analogy, like having a dinner plate stuck to your back, they're very flat in that way. Yes, yeah. Their top surface is quite slick. And then there under surface is spiny. And it's spiny in a way that if the mic is pushed in one direction, the spines dig in and it can't be moved anymore. It gets pushed in the other direction. The spines dig in that way, and it can't be pushed anymore. And they have very short stubby legs. So they'll tell Yeah, they're not fast Movers. But these legs are very spiny and hairy and they grip on very well. And so you will see a B try to groom these off and just having troubles doing so. And then the other thing is when the mic feeds, it will kind of burrow between the exoskeleton plates on the abdomen and kind of dig up in there in a way that it just makes it hard to remove. And in fact, if you see a mite dug in and feeding and he tried to pull it out with forceps, it is remarkable the grip that they have,

Jennifer 55:30
It's near impossible to pull them off a bee.

Nick 55:33
Yeah, it's easy to pull a part of the B as you do so that they really are dug in there. Then they

Jennifer 55:41
And they do burrow in like wedge themselves in between the plates of the honeybee.

Nick 55:47
Yeah. Now that being said, if you if you have honeybees in an arena, these little stubby legs to move quite quickly to jump from B to B. And so they can spread fairly easily. We haven't talked about it much, but one of the things that makes the mites particularly problematic is that high mite levels are linked with the colony, having the individuals in the colony having navigational issues. So a bee that's been heavily infected with mites and viruses is more likely to fly to the wrong hive and try to get in there. And so the mites and the viruses are helping to spread all of the other diseases from hive to hive.

Alex 56:36
So let's jump to that. You know, the varroa mites are not the only thing and we touched upon these viruses as Another cause of colony collapse. How can we use mushrooms or fungi to boost or support the immune systems of these honeybees?

Nick 56:57
Yeah, well currently what we are doing is we have Fungi Perfecti our collaborator company on the west side of the state. They will grow whatever fungus we request even and make an extract of the fungal mycelium and send it to us. And then what we do is we mix it into sugar water and feed it to the bees. sugar water feeding is very common in the beekeeping industry right now. In the area where we live, it will become an anyway because there's no food in the fall. There's just no flowers in bloom. And so beekeepers very commonly give bees, these sugar water feeders, just so they have some carbohydrates D, these feed on it readily. They'll process it into a honey like substance and get some stored food that way. But it's also very clear that sugar water on its own is not enough. It's not good for the bees, it's the same as you drinking corn syrup with nothing else in it. you'll survive, but your health will decline over time are

Jennifer 58:04
They are getting only sugars.

Nick 58:07
Right. And so we can mix fungal extracts into their sugar water, the bees consume it quite easily. And we've shown that has several effects that then are beneficial to the bees. We shown that with cages when we have cages of bees and their fish sugar water or sugar water with the fungal extracts, the ones getting the fungal extracts lives longer, just a couple days longer, you know you just a fraction of a day longer, but that can help the hive out and that compounds over time with the 1000s of bees helping to get back up to that threshold where each bee is repre paying the investment that was put into her as she's helping the hive grow rather than shrink in terms of what is in the extracts as causing the effect. That is a very interesting question. When we first started out fungi perfect eye when they first approached our lab, Paul Stamets had noticed that honeybees were forging in his mushroom beds. And then not long after he heard that Oh, bees are having problems with viruses. Well, several of the mushrooms that they grow, have these antiviral properties, especially in you know, in vitro assays in the lab and so on is fairly clear that they can have antiviral effects. So that's what kind of started the collaboration. We gave bees extracts and sugar syrup in cages and found that to help reduce viruses. However, we now have a lot more research into a kind of showing that it's not really probably not at least entirely an antiviral drug there seem to be something else going on. The bees seem better off in many different respects, independent of the viral load. We have seen these extracts help Bees fight gut parasites and things that are not affected by antiviral compounds. So it looks like these extracts are making the bees healthier in some way their immune system seems better to fight off these viruses and other pathogens that they might get. What exactly is in it? Well, there's where we have to speculate a little bit. In the past couple years, we've actually done a fair amount of nutritional testing, and little bit of chemistry to try to figure out what exactly is in these extracts. One of the things we found early on was that the mineral profile that is in these fungal extracts ends up being very similar to what they get in nectar and honey, the ratios of potassium and sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, and so on. These are all like, you know, very well balanced and similar to the BS natural diet.

Jennifer 1:00:54
Again, things that are completely absent in the sugar syrup

Nick 1:00:58
that people take these now, right. So we know that these are getting some minerals are getting their calcium and things like that. Another thing that we have found, and here we stand on the shoulders of previous labs, may Berenbaum slab in Illinois has shown that when bees consume these polyphenol compounds that are naturally found in nectar and honey, that these boosts the immune system of the bee, they will make it more resistant to pesticides. And then there's some good evidence that these sorts of changes to the immune system help against pathogens also. And basically, when fungi ferment wood, we're particularly talking about the lignin component of wood, they end up producing very similar poly phenolic compounds to what you find naturally in nectars, honeys and pollens. And so these fungal extracts that I have, they tend to be this brownish color. They're very similar to honey, in terms of color. And a lot of this seems to come from these phenolic compounds. So we know that the bees are getting some phenolic compounds, they can help their immune system. We know they're they're getting minerals, we found some B vitamins, meaning you know, like vitamin D, two, five D vitamins. There's several things in the extracts that are probably providing both nutritional and then also some sort of an immune boost. Um, the FDA is very interested to know, is this a food? Or is it a drug, because there is no nutritional supplement category for livestock animals, including beads, and we're kind of coming down that it's closer to a food. You know, when you eat broccoli and fruit and sewing, you get all these antioxidants, you know, green tea, red wine, all these antioxidants, these are good for your system, but they're not really drugs, it's a little closer to food than it is drug. And I think that's what we're seeing with these extracts where there's a nutritional component, this kind of immune boosting component, these are getting some antioxidants and so on, and is closer to that than some sort of a pharmaceutical to help them control viruses.

Jennifer 1:03:10
We've seen very little evidence that it is a direct antiviral.

Nick 1:03:14
Yeah, we had a collaborator of in Montana, Michele Flanagan, her lab has a petri dish essay with bees. cells. Yeah, she has a cell line. It's a cell culture. Yeah, and she can infect these cell lines with viruses. And when we did this collaboration, she could not find viral reductions in the system where the be immune system is not in place. And you have individual cells, but a lot of the immune system is mediated in the the hemolymph of the B it's blood, basically. And so when you remove the immune component, you just have cells in a dish. They did not get the antiviral effect. And so it does appear that the immune system is the key player in this and we're feeding into it in some way.

Alex 1:04:04
I'm curious how many species have you tried or is there a handful based on you said the shoulders of other labs research and have you tried, you know, pure mycelium versus fruiting bodies versus you know, adding other herbs in there that there must be you know, I when you're talking about kind of the mineral content I first thought of like spirulina Yeah, I feel like that's super nutrient dense or any of like nettles is super nutrient dense, or other kind of plants and or mushrooms. I know a lot of the fruiting bodies have a lot more nutrients than the mycelium, but maybe not. polyphenols are other compounds that you're you're looking for. So what what have you tried what has worked better than others? And are you dying to try A million other things.

Nick 1:05:02
Yeah, we've concentrated mainly on polypore. fungi. for a few different reasons. A lot of them grow well in the lab, they digest wood well, and they many of them have just very interesting chemistry. I'd say by this point, we've tested at least 10 different poly pores, we tested Chaga, mushroom mycelium and a few other relatives are ones that have similar lifestyles anyway.

Jennifer 1:05:27
And really the ones that we've been testing are ones that there's some literature, some research out there showing that they have some sort of antiviral or immunity properties. So that's kind of where we focused our research on.

Nick 1:05:40
Yeah, we find that many of them have some effect. But there's others that stand out. And the Ganoderma group of mushrooms, the Reishi mushrooms, that group I'd say is kind of the star so far, the ahmadu group foamies they've done okay. But there are other ones like the red belted polypore. That one did not look good, and I'm not unconvinced that there might even be some mild, toxic effects with that one.

Jennifer 1:06:10
And like tragedies, we looked at turkey tail.

Nick 1:06:13
Mm hmm. Yeah. A lot of them to seem to help a little bit. But the Ganoderma and the foamies, and some others seem to do better. And then yeah, occasionally, we would get one that just didn't look great. And then we just move on after a small cage trial.

Jennifer 1:06:27
What is fascinating though, is not only are there differences between species of poly pores that we've looked at, but it also wood, you can get various results depending on what substrate you grow the fungi on. So there's so many variables out there.

Nick 1:06:44
Yeah, in fact, that is one of our current things is to figure out what the best group substrate is. and fungi perfect guys have been great working with us in that regard. We had found that birch wood was working quite well. And then the supply chain problems associated with getting birch wood just it I think, is kind of taken out of the running. We were sold on Linden wood as birch wood, and we just had these endless problems trying to get a consistent supply chain.

Jennifer 1:07:19
So if you want to talk about point where thought you would quit when it was just like a terrible disaster. This was one of them. We had figured it out birch wood was the best substrate. Our collaborators found a supplier got all this quote, birch wood grew all of it up, did all the extractions we ran all of our experiments, found really weird results that weren't consistent with our preliminary ones who went back tried to figure it out. Then we got the wood DNA tested to figure out what is this? It wasn't birch. Yeah, it wasn't even close.

Nick 1:07:58
Yeah, we were doing the DNA test because we know that the wood can be pre infected with fungi. You know, a lot of trees have laying dodginess

Jennifer 1:08:07
fungi just living in them,

Nick 1:08:08
right, especially all that dead wood on the inside. There's a lot of fun guy living in there. So we were doing a DNA test to try to find it there was a parasitic contaminant that was toxic. And so we found that the entire wood wasn't what we thought it was.

Jennifer 1:08:21
It was tilia, linen, or basswood.

Nick 1:08:25
And so yeah, that was difficult because it meant that we found that out. I think it was September or October. And basically that entire years of field work

Jennifer 1:08:35
was done using like things grown on the wrong thing.

Nick 1:08:38
And you know, yeah, and it basically didn't work. And so we got very mild effects and couldn't figure out why things were be so inconsistent. And yeah, that was it. In the end, the type of wood was different in a way that mattered to the fungus, and it mattered to the final product for the bees. Yeah. So now we're looking at things like rice and oats and

Jennifer 1:09:01
Things that you can get a consistent supply of.

Nick 1:09:03
Yes, even older wood is old is very weedy in Washington, and we can get a lot older. And that's at least somewhat related to Bert. So we're testing things out. And hopefully we'll find something that is highly scalable. In fact, I say we're now limiting ourselves to things that are scalable for production. And so hopefully it won't be too long, we'll have a final round of tests to satisfy satisfy the FDA. And our I say our recipes nearly finalized for the grow procedure. So hopefully it won't be too long. And there will be something out there for beekeepers to use and experiment with and

Lera 1:09:45
Yeah, well, thank you so much for your perseverance and the development of this product.

Nick 1:09:51
Yeah, yeah. I guess kind of the next part of it. You had asked about mixing plants into it. That is another very interesting avenue of study. We may go there in the future. But you know, for now we're trying to just get the fungal extracts figured out and kind of out the door and so on. But I do have interest in not only adding plants, I could provide minerals like, you know, comfrey, and nettles and so on. But there's some very interesting plants that provide some polyphenols, right, so we can look at spices, fungi, perfect, I have some extract sprays that have licorice, and some interesting chemicals, you know, from these other plants that end up in these sprays and extracts. So yeah, many, many more places to go. I'm sure we'll get to some of those places in the future. But uh, yeah, it's one of the reasons it'd be nice to kind of get this out to beekeepers is beekeepers are notorious tinkerers, you know, they will change and experiment and double the dose, half the dose, you know, do what they want to do. And it will be very interesting to see the different combinations that come out of this, you know, cinnamon and sugar, you know, different spices, it's really hard to say, what could have these effects, the nutrition is still fairly understudied. We know they like the diversity. But after that, I say we're still in the early stages. It was only 10 years ago, when we began to look at, you know, take a real deeper look at it more than you know, bzb, protein and sugar.

Alex 1:11:29
What research? Are you dying to? You know, besides getting approval by the FDA getting this out to beekeepers? Or is there any other research that helps the bees that you're just dying to see done or do yourselves?

Nick 1:11:49
That's a good question. I have a long list of moderately interesting vi questions that are not necessarily ones that I would do now when honeybee health is such an issue. But there are fun things that I would like to do one day, like use the honeybee dance language to tell us about these time perception. And then see if we can mess with that time perception with certain compounds or so on. There's a lot to be done with the learning the memory, dealing with honeybee mortality in cages, I am now very interested in the bee death process is in short, she's live. She's alive, she's alive. She twitches for an hour or two and then is dead.

Jennifer 1:12:32
And it's weird how fast bee death happens.

Nick 1:12:35
Yes, yeah, I mean, we don't find sick bees in the cages we find healthy bees, and then dead ones basically. And we'll find just one or two of these in the in between stage where you know that they are dying. And so be fascinating, really get into what is happening, when they go from okay to dead within a few hours. You know, what is that acute cause of death? That's still an open question. And I'd love to know.

Lera 1:13:05
So I have high hopes for the mushroom extracts and proving bee immune systems. But what is what is your take on this? Do you see this being potentially pivotal for beekeeping? And then, you know, agriculture as a whole? And then what are your thoughts on the meta vizeum? And any myco pesticides? Do you see this picking up and potentially priming a strain that can survive warmer bee hives? And yeah, what what are your thoughts on that?

Nick 1:13:36
Well, I'll start in st with the extracts. It will, it's a big step in the right direction. I'm still not entirely sure how completely unique they are, as opposed to these other plant extracts and so on that we could test can see. But well, I think where it's really making the mark is getting beekeepers to think about the nutrition in a larger context and just know that feeding them. sugared water is not sufficient. The bees are surviving that they're not healthy. And with these other problems that hives are encountering, they need something more than just sugar water. And so even if these beekeepers look at our final product and say well is too expensive for us to use, hopefully the big thing is to kind of give them a kick to move past sugar water and really try to feed the bees and actual beef feed rather than something that's cheap, like corn syrup. I'd say the meta regime however, was such a problem. It is such a huge problem. And we're getting results on par with oxalic acid treatments and so on in a way that implies that it will be usable, it will make an impact. Um, I think that one really has the potential to perhaps make a bigger and Because ROA is a bigger problem, if you can control your mites, then you control your viruses downstream,

Jennifer 1:15:07
It's indirectly because bro transmit so many viruses. So if you can keep the Varroa population down, you can control the vector and therefore, hopefully control some of your viral loads.

Nick 1:15:19
Yeah, I would say that that is fairly clear that if you really can't control your mind to keep the viruses levels down, you know, if keeping the virus levels down, keeping the pathogens down with the extracts and things like that will help. But Varroa is still a deadly menace. It's one

Jennifer 1:15:36
If those if your hive is infected with fertile and you don't do anything about it. It's just a matter of time before that colony dies. It's not a question of, if they will, it's a question of when,

Nick 1:15:49
yeah, we did an experiment where we set out 48 colonies that were as low as with rural as we could get. They were treated. They were treated heavily. Yeah. And then we put these out in a new yard. Yeah, a new yard is an urban location, but there's probably a backyard beekeeper somewhere nearby. Within the first year, every single hive had varroa mites. And by the next end of the next field season, we had to call that experiment off, because I think it's 42 of the 46 were dead, or 42 of the 48. So mites will appear in the first year. And if you don't do anything your colony like will be dead in that second year. And is just so deadly. Yeah, the militaris Ium has that opportunity to be a bit of a game changer, especially with the chemicals are failing simultaneously. Yeah,

Jennifer 1:16:43
And the other thing that I didn't mention about metaphyseal is, you've mentioned that the mat 52 is widely in use as a myco pesticide already. And I believe the FDA has already deemed it safe for human contact and all of that, which is fantastic, because most of the parasites that beekeepers use is not safe for humans. Some of them are like classy carcinogens. And so you can't use them all year, you can't especially when you're producing honey, it is a very big no no to treat your hives. Whereas with metamerism since hopefully I haven't done through all the paperwork yet. But since it's already been deemed safe by the FDA for human contact and whatnot. We're hopeful that this will be allowed to be applied during honey production, which is something that no other parasites can be done right right now.

Nick 1:17:33
Yeah, at least the vast majority of

Jennifer 1:17:35
Yeah, maybe some of them, I don't know.

Nick 1:17:37
And another thing we haven't touched on is that we've done a lot of work to select and change this string. So it's very deadly because varroa mites, we could do similar things and begin to target it towards spider mites, for example, or some of these greenhouse pests. You know, we now have a stream that's very tolerant to high temperatures. And that has been a limiting factor for pathogenic fungi for bio control for quite a while, you know, Bavaria and metamerism. fungi are typically treated as cold weather applications, because they do not handle the heat. Well. Hopefully, now that we've developed this in this one strain, we could then move it into other cropping systems as well.

Alex 1:18:23
And luckily, it's so adaptable, the metamerism is, is unbelievable. Same with Bavaria and about, you know, they, they make up over a third of the myco pesticides, just those two strains alone, our species, and yeah, I'm so optimistic for the future. We're at a time where we need it's vital for us to figure out these solutions to these world problems, or else. You know, a lot of people say save the planet, but it's really save the humans were worth. We're fucked. You know, I think, I think a lot of people paint Mother Earth as really fragile. But I mean, man, we've already gone through six major mass extinctions and life has a way of coming back. I think it's just humans, just, whatever, we missed a gear or something, we just have, have really, we're really great at messing things up. But, you know, we have the potential of really consciousness and awareness to to see the mistakes and learn from them. And so now it's like, okay, you know, we made all our mistakes, and let's, let's look at them. Let's see the truth. And let's, let's fix it. And it might be that metamerism isn't even the strain that we use, and that's fine. And it could be that, you know, we don't even use mycelium. We use the The actual mushroom, so we use a different substrate, or we don't even use fungi, we use a plant, you know, but whatever it is, we'll figure it out or a specific extraction of how to extract the the mycelium or the mushrooms or whatever we're using. At a certain alcohol percentage, and that makes, that's the world that difference or using oil instead of alcohol or, or powder, it's it. And, and these little tweaks if we can just learn and adapt and find solutions that change the world and, and save humanity from the brink of extinction. Because we're really at that brink. And so I applaud you, I'm, this is awesome, you know, you you said in beginning, you're like, Oh, it's gonna solve the crisis. And I think this is equally as important, if not more, and this is a problem to bees. And in that, you know, all systems are connected. So that is our pollinators that we will run out of food, we will run out of our biodiversity. And so thank you, YouTube for doing this work. I, I applaud you in any way that we can be of service and help to you too, and anybody that you work with, please, and any anybody else listening, you know, we're all in this together. And it's up to us to make the difference.

Nick 1:21:31
I fully agree. Plant flowers, keep your areas as wild as you can. we prune our elderberry tree in a way that invites native bees to burrow into the stems and make little solitary view homes right there in the yard. There's so many ways that you can make on your own just with your little spot. Little things you can do to help out you know the rewilding of America, all we have to do is stop messing it up and right, let things regrow,

Jennifer 1:21:59
And don't try to kill everything, please.

Nick 1:22:02
In Eastern Washington, we live very, we live close to some of these forests of Idaho that were absolutely clear cut. And, you know, sometimes it takes eight years, but life comes back and it can be beautiful.

Alex 1:22:15
This is one of the reasons why we plant trees as a company and we've planted over 33,000 trees next year, we're gonna plant 10,000 more all over the globe. And it's important to shape our environment and promote biodiversity. Because, I mean, like you said, you found metamerism in a back in your backyard. But you know, there's other strains and other fungi that we will lose if we, if we continue to clear cut, and there might be a solution. You know, in the old growth forest, or the Amazon rain forest or some other forest around the world, some fungi that we haven't even found yet we haven't even tapped the surface of how much how many species are out there, we barely even found the the tiny ice crystal on top of the iceberg of how many species of mushrooms or fungi are out there. And one of them is going to save the bees or one of them is going to save humanity and and one of them is going to become this amazing myco pesticide one of them is you know, and and so let's preserve our ecosystems and let's be symbiotic with our ecosystems and find the solutions and continue to adapt, be open minded and do research. And And if not, everyone gets to be awesome. Researchers like you too. And and so at the very least just plant some wild flowers in your front yard. Don't make a barren lawn. I know. So many people want that sterile looking lawn, but please plant some food and plant some wild flowers. At the very least flowers are beautiful, you know, plant some more flowers. And you've you've inspired me because we have a few flowers up front. But now I want to go out and buy some wild flowers and just make our whole front lawn wild flowers. And yeah, so thank you.

Nick 1:24:17
Yeah, much like the enjoyment of growing your own food and then eating it. When you do grow these flowers and you see, you know, you're bringing in the bees. And then if you can set up a solitary bee house or start providing some habitat to you can get that same sort of joy. It's really fun to go out there and see who's out pollinating that day.

Jennifer 1:24:38
I get a kick out of it. Every morning I take the dogs out and I look at the flowers. And I watch all the butterflies and malls and bees and solitary bees and flies that come out. It's so much fun.

Alex 1:24:49
Thanks for stopping in smelling the flowers. We need more of that. Have y'all seen the documentary honey land?

Nick 1:24:59
I think I did see that one years ago? Yeah.

Alex 1:25:03
It's a funky one. They, I feel like they barely have any talking. And it's just interesting soundtrack.

Lera 1:25:13
We're based in North Macedonia. And it's basically this hyper spotlight on this. There's like a population of West three, five people in this super remote part of Northern Macedonia. And they're beekeepers. And they have like two sources of food, it's honey and one other thing. And occasionally, they'll go into town and trade jars of honey for food and other commodities that don't need. But they are probably the most low maintenance people I've ever seen in a documentary. And it was just beautiful of how minimal of an effort you need to put to really have a symbiosis with the land around you. Yeah, it's a great documentary. And—

Alex 1:25:54
it's also pulls on your heartstrings, because they are struggling with colony collapse. And yeah, it's this, the main woman's only source of income is this honey. And so it really, it's beautiful. I highly recommend seeing it. We just watched it a couple months ago, and it was great. It was great. And I want to put it back to you guys. Are there any resources out there? documentaries, blogs, websites, XYZ, that people books that people can learn more about the work that you're doing? Or just beekeeping in general?

Jennifer 1:26:36
I mean, our lab has a website, although I can't promise how regularly it's updated. For say, I'm given a good honeybee resources that aren't like dense textbooks.

Nick 1:26:50
Right, but the problem with honeybee resources right now is things are changing so fast. Um, I, I have a copy of the hive and the honeybee over here. And it's from the 1980s and it's mentioned of Varroa is zero, it doesn't even mention it by name, it has a couple paragraphs on these Asian mites, that might be a problem in some other places. Um, so you know, things change quite quickly. And I know that the hive and the honeybee as a book has been updated by the company that makes it but it's there's not a lot of great resources right now. You can there's several social media groups, that social media groups like the pollinator partnership and so on, the be informed partnership aphis Project aphis. And several of them have good social media presences. And you can begin to get a good idea of not only the problems facing bees, but kind of the, the seasonal challenges that these face because you know, a lot of these groups also work with a big commercial industry. And every year a truck turns over, you know, full of BS and will shut down the highway or, you know, every year some poor beekeeper gets their forklift stuck in the mud, or you know, all these little tribulations that come along with raising honeybees,

Lera 1:28:17
Baby steps and perseverance.

Nick 1:28:21
Yeah, it would be great if everybody could keep their bees near that mixed, you know, wildflower meadow with a forest nearby so they could forge on tree sap, and the wood decay, fungi and all of that. Most bees are not fortunate enough to have that situation. So we have to do what we can to help them out. Even if it is something that feels a little convoluted, like growing fungi in the lab, extracting it into this juice and feeding of the sugar water is still going to help them out.

Jennifer 1:28:50
Ideally, there would be a rotting log somewhere for them to forage on naturally. Yeah, that's not happening.

Lera 1:28:55
We have one more question. And it's the question we ask all of our guests. So the question is, if fungi had the mic and could say one thing to the whole human race, what do you think they would say?

Nick 1:29:07
Alright, so my answer to this is when you look at the fungal kingdom, there are some pathogens and so on. But many of them when their primary functions is decomposers, they break down your dead life back into the original components. So those original components can be turned back into new life. We as humans, make a lot of things that we have no plan for their death. Plastic is an amazing substance, and we should not really, you know, get bad on plastic. The problem is this plastic that's gonna last for hundreds of years, we just toss it into the environment, and nothing can break it down. As humans, we need to do better to engineer things that either life can break down and turn it back into those original components, or find some way that we do it ourselves. Because this just Like, you know, making things that are semi permanent and then just expecting life to take care of it is it's an absurdity. And that's how we end up with so much plastic in the oceans and so on. We make these things to live 1000s of years and, and then just throw them away, like discard them away, and there's nothing to fill that fungal style of you break it back down and make it useable again. So just from an engineering standpoint, we need to do better with our materials, with you know, how we interact with the environment and make sure that things can be broken down. If not, by life, then by us before it's over.

Jennifer 1:30:41
I guess if I had anything to say, um, it would be Hmm. I think it would be. People are so focused on the mushrooms. I love mushrooms. Like I love foraging. I love the edibles. Like we just got back with I can't even tell you how many pounds of chanterelles and Mata Taki that we found. I love them. However, there's so much more to the fungal Kingdom than edibles. And there's so much that you can learn from fungi. Like again metamerism. It's a soil fungus that looks like a mold. It's not very sexy. But there's so much there's it's so neat, right? There's, there's so much diversity out there that is yet to be discovered or really understood. And so I guess I speak for all all the fungi out there that no one ever thinks about. There's so many cool things that you just have to look.

Nick 1:31:35
Yes. You know, when we would go hiking with Laurie Charisse, recently retired mycologist been around for decades. And, you know, we'd be out in the forest, I see what's that? She's no idea. Nobody, nobody knows. Nobody's ever documented it like, it's just such an Oh, nobody's even tried. This is not enough people looking at especially the rare species, we barely have a handle on the common species that we eat, which is absurd. Yeah, we need to do better with the biodiversity aspect and respect the role that the wood decay errors and all these others do. When we go into these logged forests, when these forests are raised for continuous logging, there's not a lot of deadfall you know, the woods taken away. And that means there's not a lot of wood decay, fungi, there's not as much leaf litter. And so all the ecosystem that gets supported all those wood boring beetles, so with the cape beetles are so many, you know, so much life just under the surface. And, you know, if we, we kind of need to let some of the dead go and let that part of the ecosystem come back.

Lera 1:32:47
Thanks for doing your part.

Alex 1:32:50
And that's an invitation for everyone tuning in, get out there and do some cool shit. Stop to smell the flowers, plant more flowers and do some cool shit. And we want to thank everyone for for tuning in tuning in with us for another episode of mushroom revival podcast wherever you're tuning in from either listening, watching or both. Thank you, we'd love you sending a big fungal hug your way. And don't forget to hit that subscribe button. Tell your friends all about mushrooms and bees and anything else that you've learned and how cool they are and how we have to save humanity and the world. And please, you know, leave a review whatever is genuine to you one star five star and head over to our website at mushroom revival calm. We have a whole line of mushroom extracts. And please reach out to us we if you have a future topic that you want us to dive into or a guest that you want us to bring on a show. We'd love to hear from you, even if it's just to say hi, because we're super friendly. Let's talk about mushrooms. Just to say hi we're always here. So thank you everyone. Mush love and may the spores be with you.

Transcribed by ** Subject to error