Western University BiologyWestern Science

Using Probiotics to Boost Bee Immunity Systems

Drs. Graham Thompson and Gregor Reid inspect the hives.

Photo taken by: CTV

Drs. Graham Thompson and Gregor Reid (left) look on as graduate students Brendan Daisley (Lawson Health Research Institute) and Anna Chernyshova (Western Biology) inspect the hives.

What is one way to make honey bees happier, healthier and stronger to fight off infection and withstand environmental stress? Feed them beneficial strains of bacteria to augment their gut biota and boost their immunity!

That is the idea behind new collaborative research that, as featured on CTV London News, is taking place at Western Biology’s own research apiary.

This summer, a team led by Dr. Gregor Reid (Lawson Health Research Institute) and Dr. Graham Thompson (Western Biology) have grimaced through more than a few stings to test how probiotic food supplements, delivered in custom-made BioPatties, can help the bees withstand environmental stresses resulting from pesticides, disease and sporadic variation in weather, temperature and bloom.

The team, consisting of nearly ten people from both Lawson and Biology, is now one summer into a three-year OMAFRA-funded project that will ultimately determine whether the BioPatty, when formulated and delivered correctly, can accelerate colony growth and improve bee performance.

So far, the results are promising. The probiotic-treated colonies narrowly avoided an (unplanned) outbreak of a devastating local bee disease and consistently exhibited lower pathogen loads. The team is now processing a massive amount of field-collected data to share their findings with the Ontario beekeeping community.