The Buzzing World of Fungus
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Most of us think of fungus as the stuff that grows in between toe nails or the white and fuzzy coating you find on top of your two month old, sliced bread. But fungi are much more than the occasionally desired pizza topping or a sign your leftovers have spoiled. Read more to find out how fungus has been linked to increasing survival in honey bees and ways you can improve both your health and the health of your bees.
Mushrooms and Decreased Viral Count in Honeybees
Just this past fall, a group of research mycologists, including the man himself - Paul Stamets (if you don’t know who Paul is, please do yourself a solid and look this guy up) published reportson finding the benefits of polypore mushroom extract in reducing bee viral count. With the not so recent decline in honeybee populations, this report, to many, felt like a gift from Aristaeus, the Greek God of beekeeping himself.
The report shows that a variety of mushroom extracts such as amadou (Fomes) and reishi (Ganoderma) fungi, significantly reduce levels of hive viruses in honeybees. Due to anthropogenic factors like climate change, habitat destruction, loss of floral biodiversity, and herbicide/pesticide usage, forty percent of honeybee populations have declined since the late 1990’s. These factors drastically affect the entire health of a hive, allowing bees to become more susceptible to the notorious parasitic mite every bee keeper has nightmares of…Varroa destructor.
The name Varroa destructor might sound like some made up cartoon villain but nevertheless, V. destructor is the Scientific name belonging to the mite linked to causing a host of catastrophic viruses in honeybee hives like DWV and LSV. Because reishi and amadou mushrooms have antimicrobial properties, the evidence in this report show that these mushrooms decreased levels of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and Lake Sinai Virus (LSV) by 45,000 fold! Pretty incredible! You see, not all fungi are simply warning signs your food is no longer consumable; keep reading to see how some can be allies in overall health.
Use Mushrooms as Medicine:
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Chaga, Shiitake, Reishi, Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, the list goes on. Over 2,000 species of edible mushrooms exist, all having their own properties and benefits to improve your health. Mushrooms like maitake, shitake, turkey tail and reishi have been used by our ancestors for millennia and are found to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and adaptogenic properties. Similarly, some mushrooms like reishi and chaga have antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties that can range in a host of benefits like increasing immunity during the dreaded flu season or fighting a persistent fungal infection. Mushrooms are also known for their diverse and wide mineral and vitamin load. Vegan? Struggling with getting Vitamin B or D from plant sources? Mushrooms got you covered.
Battling specific ailments like anxiety or diabetes? Reishi mushroom has been shown to promote insulin secretion in diabetic patients and improve sleep and stress levels in those with anxiety. I encourage you to look into approaches of integrating mushrooms into your lifestyle. With over 2,000 species of edible varieties, the possibilities feel endless!
How can I use these mushrooms? Practicing preventative healthcare by maintaining a healthy, diverse diet is always a recipe for success. Incorporating mushrooms into your meals, drinks and beauty products are great ways to utilize these ancient organisms to better your health. The market for mushroom medicine is growing and you can find a variety of resources on and offline to source your mushroom medicine. Or better yet! Maybe take a day off to explore your local forest and forage for your own mushroom magic. But please, do your homework first. If you do decide to forage, please source mushrooms responsibly and be aware to not disrupt the fungal populations by over sourcing.
Mushrooms and Natural Beekeeping:
Of course, fungi aren’t just for human use. For generations, bee keepers all over the world have used certain mushrooms in their smokers. Tinder fungus, Amadou, and Oak Wood mushrooms have all been reordered as mushrooms used for their highly flammable properties. They are known to burn slow and steady, creating the perfect fuel for a smoker. Not only do these mushrooms make for great fuel but they also produce light, gentle smoke causing a calmer effect to your bees. Some beekeepers have reported stories of a single mushroom taking over fifteen minutes to finally go out!
Lastly, mushroom extracts like the ones we read about in the trial above have been found to have extraordinary effect on hive health. Instead of using chemical miticide products and treatments, try creating your own mushroom extract feed. Your bees will thank you.
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