New research shows that humans are not the only ones who vaccinate their babies to protect them from disease. Bees do it too, in a much more natural way and they have been doing it for a long time.
A team or researchers looked at the proteins found in the blood of bees and they realized that they vaccinate their offspring by using a small quantity of pathogen into the body. This way, the cells present in the immune system can protect the bee from various diseases when they are exposed to an array of harmful factors. That is, in fact, the same system humans employ to vaccinate the young children.
According to the researchers, this is a major discovery because, not only it can teach us a few things about bees, but it can also result in innovations regarding the way we make food.
The queen bee gives birth to all the young bees in a hive and she almost never leaves the nest. This is why a jelly of pollen and nectar must be brought for her to feed on. This food is then mixed with pathogens present inside her gut and transferred to her body. Afterwards, it is stored with a certain type of protein called vitellogenin.
The queen’s bloodstream then delivers the pathogens to her eggs, resulting in bee larvae which are immune to various types of bacteria and germs that could harm the entire colony.
This has very positive effects on the bee population because, without this “vaccine”, many of them could die very early and a lot of the precious pollinators would be lost.
However, scientists underline the fact that the immunization process does not protect them from all the diseases and bacteria. The bee population continues to be in decline and there are multiple causes associated to this, from harmful pesticides to viruses and the colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon which causes the bees to leave the hive and abandon the queen.
Even so, the scientists say that the new discovery can really help the bee population and protect the valuable insects from various external factors.
“Because this vaccination process is naturally occurring, this process would be cheap and ultimately simple to implement. It has the potential to both improve and secure food production for humans,” said author study Gro Amdam, who is a professor at Arizona State University.
The decline in bee population affects a large number of crops and could lead to the loss of millions of dollars.
Image Source: bumblebeeconservation