Why Do Bees (and the Environment) Love Spider Venom?
Nov 26 2014
Though they may seemingly play a small part in our lives, bees are actually an important part of our ecosystem. Their ability to cross-pollinate plant life is invaluable to the ongoing survival of nature as we know it - indeed, 90% of the world’s plants are dependent on pollinators to thrive. Without them, we would struggle to have any crops at all – meaning our food supply would very rapidly dry up.
Because of their importance, it is essential that the pesticides we use on those crops don’t damage bee populations. In fact, there are organisations which exist solely to ensure that our fragile ecosystem is not damaged by our own eagerness to advance scientific techniques of farming, as is elucidated in the article: Continuous Focus on Sample Management. As such, much research has been put into trying to find viable alternatives to pesticides which might threaten pollinators’ existence.
A Couple of Solutions
Last June, a team of researchers from Swansea, Wales, investigated the possibility of using fungal extracts as a natural pesticide for bees. They did so by testing the extract on a strain of moth which is a pest in bee hives and found that the results were encouraging. To read more about that development, read this article: Good News for Bees as Fungus Could Be a Viable Pesticide.
Now, a research team based in Newcastle has pursued the idea of using spider venom to fight bees’ enemies. Though it might seem like a contradiction in terms to use venom to help save bees, tests show that a mixture of the venom from the Australian funnel web spider and lectin from the flowers of snowdrops have no serious or lasting damage on bees’ cognitive functions, but are fatal to pests.
The studies were carried out by exposing the bees to far greater quantities of the concoction than they would ever likely face in the wild, then measuring their ability to remember. Their foraging patterns require they have robust memories and are able to identify distinguishing floral characteristics - failure to do so affects their pollination abilities on an alarming scale. Fortunately, the tests revealed that the mixture only slighted affected their survival abilities and didn’t affect their memory or cognitive functions at all.
Good News All Round
The mixture had previously been tested on larger animals with no adverse effects, meaning that it has real potential as a viable solution to the problem of pesticides concerning bee hives. This will allow our furry black and yellow friends to continue about their daily cross-pollinating business, free from danger of pests, and allow our wider ecosystem to flourish.
Of course, the spider-flower concoction is not a cure-all. Rather, it will form part of a greater plan to tackle safe pesticide control, perhaps working alongside fungal implementation.
However, the early signs are encouraging. Perhaps we can all grow to love spider venom a little bit more.
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