New Research Suggests Probiotics May Treat and Prevent Chalkbrood

Figure 1. Drone larvae being colonized by Chalkbrood fungal spores

Dr Murali Nayudu is an Adjunct Associate Professor with the Faculty of Science & Technology at the University of Canberra in Australia. He has spent more than a decade investigating the microbiome of honey bees. Since October 2018, Dr Nayudu has collected monthly gut bacteria samples from honeybees in order to understand what the normal diversity and concentration of gut bacteria should be. He plans on using this information to help identify and treat diseased hives.

Depletion of beneficial bacteria in the honey bee gut may be due to pathogen proliferation. Dr Nayudu believes that probiotic supplementation may aid in the prevention and treatment of disease during periods of high metabolic activity (nectar and pollen flow).

“I want to use the probiotics developed not just as a treatment, but also as a prophylactic and an indicator of hive health.”.

Dr Murali Nayudu

He hopes to eventually isolate and create a specialized probiotic product containing a handful of bacterial strains capable of killing Chalkbrood, a fungal brood disease with characteristic “mummy-like” larvae.

Several studies have already shown that oral probiotic supplementation provides both prophylactic and curative benefits to honeybees exposed to Nosema and that the microbiome also plays a role in susceptibility to infection and treatment outlook. Additionally, there are several probiotics already on the market specifically designed to support the immunity and metabolism of honey bees (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The number of supplements, in particular probiotics, for bees has steadily been increasing in popularity among beekeepers.

What do you think? Have you personally used probiotics for yourself or your bees? What were your results?

May your bees be healthy & happy!

Author: Jennifer Gordon

Honeybee Research Scientist, Farmer

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