Food System at Risk from Drastic Reduction in Bee Pollinators; Author Plans to Make Extract and Feeder Available to Empower Public to Help Save Bees

Above: Honey bee and bumble bee with DWV. Left photo by Ethel M. Villalobos/University of Hawai’i. Right by Jacqueline Hartwright.

Extracts from the mycelium of certain woodland mushrooms have been shown to greatly reduce viruses contributing to bee Colony Collapse Disorder, according to a new study published today in Nature’s Scientific Reports [DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-32194-8]. The study is here:

Bees are dying off in record numbers. Managed honey bee colonies are sustaining year-to-year losses estimated to be near 50 percent, and scientists project that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) could devastate bee populations within ten to twenty years.

Colony Collapse Disorder is fueled by multiple factors such as parasitic mites, viruses, pollution, habitat loss, and exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides and the herbicide glyphosate. Parasitic Varroa mites infest hives and bite bees, transferring many debilitating viruses, including Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and Lake Sinai Virus (LSV). These viruses reduce the ability of bees to pollinate, shorten their flight times by nearly half, and suppress their immune system. Further, these viruses remain on flowers visited by infected bees and later re-infect wild bees. Scientists have recently identified viruses, especially DWV, as a primary driver of CCD.

Currently, beekeepers have no effective treatments available to address the devasting impacts of these viruses. Mushroom mycelium extracts may provide a safe and effective solution for addressing CCD. The researchers expect this potential solution to be easily integrated, since beekeepers already feed sugar water to their hives. Liquid mycelium extract can be easily added to this feed water. Above: Honey bee and bumble bee with DWV. Left photo by Ethel M. Villalobos/University of Hawai’i. Right Jacqueline Hartwright.

The study’s lead author, Paul Stamets, plans to empower citizen scientists, beekeepers, and land managers with practical solutions to help address CCD and sustain bee populations. To sign up for future availability of a bee feeder with the mushroom extract and receive updates about ongoing research, please visit

The new study documents large reductions in two of the main viruses threatening bees using extracts made from the mycelium of Reishi (Ganoderma) and Amadou (Fomes) mushrooms. The mycelium used in these tests was grown in controlled conditions using tissue culture techniques, then extracted using alcohol and water. Amadou is a hoof-shaped hard wood conk also called “tinder fungus.” Red Reishi mushroom has long been used as an immune tonic in Asia.

In both cage and field trials, mushroom mycelium extracts were added to the bees’ sugar water feeders at a concentration of one percent. Researchers measured how the extracts impacted viral burden in Apis mellifera, a managed honey bee in the United States and a wild bee in Europe and Asia. In controlled indoor experiments with caged bees, DWV plummeted more than 800-fold in the Amadou treatment compared to the sugar control group. In field studies, the Amadou mycelium extract led to a 44-fold reduction in DWV, while Reishi mycelium extract led to a nearly 80-fold reduction in DWV. Reductions against LSV were even more significant, with Reishi mycelium extract reducing LSV at a rate 45,000 times that of the control group.

The study was authored by twelve scientists, including Paul Stamets—a well-known mycologist, author and inventor based in Washington State; Jay Evans—research leader at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bee Research Laboratory; and Steve Shepherd—professor of entomology at Washington State University.

Co-author Dr. Jay Evans, USDA/ARS, explains that he has, “never seen such strong anti-viral activity against bee viruses as I have seen with Stamets’ extracts.” Co-author Steve Sheppard, PhD., Professor of Entomology at Washington State University, additionally noted: “as an entomologist with 40+ years of experience studying bees, I am unaware of any reports of materials that extend the life of worker bees more than this.”

Bees are crucially important to our food systems and economy. Over one-third of the food supply is dependent upon bee pollination. Many fruits, nuts, and grains are heavily dependent upon bee pollination, as are hay and alfalfa — critical feedstocks for meat and dairy production.

Above: Prototype bee feeder in development.

Above: Prototype bee feeder in development.

Crops like almonds are solely dependent upon bee pollination; more than one million bee hives are transported to California almond orchards each year to support this multi-billion dollar industry. With one out of every three bites of food at risk, loss of bee pollinators is of grave concern.

“This could be a paradigm shifting breakthrough,” said lead author Paul Stamets. This discovery is a result of a long chain of events over several decades. Notably, Stamets was invited to submit samples to the Project BioShield program, a Department of Defense initiative to prospect for compounds that may be helpful in the aftermath of 9/11 when there were heightened concerns of a biological attack. More than 2,000 assays were conducted to test the potential value of mushroom extracts. Several of Stamets’ mushroom mycelium extracts were found to be extraordinarily active.

Stamets thought these extracts might help reduce viruses in bees. He approached Dr. Steve Sheppard of Washington State University, who tested the extracts for toxicity and both were surprised that some of the extracts nearly doubled lifespan of caged bees while reducing viruses. Before this discovery, there have been no reports of treatments to reduce viruses in bees.


Paul Stamets, TED speaker, author, mycologist, inventor and entrepreneur, is considered an intellectual and industry leader in fungi: habitat, use, and production. Paul is the author of six books (including Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World, Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, and Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World), and he has discovered and named numerous new species of psilocybin mushrooms.

He has received numerous awards, including: Invention Ambassador (2014-2015) for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Mycologist Award (2014) from the North American Mycological Association (NAMA), and the Gordon & Tina Wasson Award (2015) from the Mycological Society of America (MSA). His work has entered into the mainstream of popular culture. In the new Star Trek: Discovery series on CBS, the Science Officer is portrayed by an Astromycologist, a Lt. Paul Stamets. Paul's work with mycelium is a central theme of this series. Photo of Stamets and Red Reishi by Paul Taylor.

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