By Jahn Rise and Susan Knilans
(Note from Susan: Bee Friends, Jahn Rise will be coming to Bee Club in February to talk about a project we may consider involving bees, mushrooms, and bee health. We hope that a group of club members will want to become part of this local experiment. The potential for bees is promising, and PBC certainly encourages innovation. Hopefully, this post will get you excited about the possibilities!)
A few years ago, Paul Stamets (the mushroom guru) discovered bees harvesting dew drops off of mushrooms in his yard. Fast forward: He is now in the process of working with the University of Washington to develop a mushroom solution that would help enhance the immune system of honeybees. This product is not on the market yet, but there is a great deal of interest in it. If you google Paul and the topic, there is much information to be found.
Stamets has, for a long time, used and crafted different mycelium with the goal of remediating our eco-systems. Certain mushrooms help bees to self-medicate, which they do by drinking the sap the mycelium excretes. Within the smaller bee communities of urban cities I hope this will work towards building humane intentional relations between beekeepers and bees, and eventually eliminate the choice to use miticides and chemicals in the hives.
With the intent to spread this knowledge, I propose the creation of a pamphlet that will include:
Seasonal inoculation times and types of wood for the fungi beds
~Varieties of beneficial fungi and best growing mediums and styles for each
~Up keep of beds and/or logs, how to prepare the beds, bed location
~Making fermented teas and bio char to help strengthen areas of spawn inoculation
~Benefits to soil and getting fruiting fungi
~How to transfer the mycelium to other areas
~Spore capture and spreading, re-inoculation, liquid spawn,
~Information on different studies both on the university level and from the USDA.
This information is relevant all across the world and as we begin to create awareness around this facet of bee health, our local area can become an example to other communities of the benefits and implications of this form of medicine, a new medicine for bees and humans alike.
Fungi better amend the soil by breaking down materials, adding active microbial(s) that benefit other species, and can pull from soils heavy metals and toxic oils. The fungi/Mycelium excretion (having antiviral attributes) helps support the honeybee immune system, enabling them to better fight off viruses. The mushrooms also provide a source of nutrients.
Mycelium will inhabit the same ecosystem and work alongside bees in a symbiotic relationship to create a healthier plant and soil community. Once the fungi are stable in one location, we will be able to transfer the mycelium, and spores of the fungi to other sites we set up in the future.
To begin the process, we will discuss varieties of mushrooms known to have some effect on bee immune defense. We will discuss methods of inoculation of spores with the mediums of wood chips, logs, straw and cardboard. Placement in individuals yards will be determined on a case0by-case basis. The mushrooms require shade, access for bees, and water.
Maintenance of beds includes watering during the hot months, and adding more bark chips each year or more spawn every 1-3 years. Inoculation (the mushroom equivalent of “planting”) will happen in early spring, preparing beds as close as possible to the hives. These beds will consist of bark chips and logs, bark chips and straw/cardboard or totems using logs.
I believe that the bees will find the mycelium of their own accord and will feed as needed. My hope is that through the first six months we will see the bees going to mycelium. Our observations beyond that will be to see if the hives are strengthened by the feeding on extract from the mycelium. The bees have been known to feed on mycelium beds until the mycelium is decimated, so re-inoculation will be key.
This is a process not completely verified by mycologists or bee keepers. It is an idea I’m putting forth through intuition and insight and early studies. like most things in life, this will be a gamble, but if it fails, there is no harm to any living system.
My hope is that we can encourage a local study to see what comes from working with mycelium. I would like to add that it is a shamanic venture we wish to engage in, with other sentient beings and the possibilities of simple solutions to difficult problems.
This is what hobby beekeepers can do: innovate, explore, observe. Let’s see what we can learn!