Probiotics are not only beneficial for humans and livestock, also bees can profit. This has been shown in a new study by Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson) and Western University in Canada.
According to the researchers, Lactobacilli bacteria can potentially protect honey bees from the toxic effects of pesticides.
In the study, fruit flies as a well-known model for studying pesticide toxicity in honey bees were used. Both honey bees and fruit flies are affected similarly by neonicotinoids, have very similar immune systems, and share many common microbes present in their microbiota – the collection of microorganisms found in each insect.
The researchers found that fruit flies exposed to one of the world’s most commonly used pesticides, imidacloprid (IMI), experienced changes to their microbiota and were more susceptible to infections. The flies were exposed to a comparable amount of pesticide as honey bees in the field. By administering a specific strain of probiotic Lactobacilli, survival among fruit flies exposed to the pesticide improved significantly. The mechanism involved stimulating the immune system through a pathway that insects use to adapt to infection, heat and other stresses.
The researchers hope to further study the mechanisms involved in this process and perform field tests on honey bee populations in Ontario.