How bees naturally vaccinate their babies

Aug 4, 2015

Photo courtesy of Christofer Bang

By Arizona State University

When it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don’t have a choice — they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how they do it.

Researchers from Arizona State University, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä and Norwegian University of Life Sciences made the discovery after studying a bee blood protein called vitellogenin. The scientists found that this protein plays a critical, but previously unknown role in providing bee babies protection against disease.

The findings appear in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

“The process by which bees transfer immunity to their babies was a big mystery until now. What we found is that it’s as simple as eating,” said Gro Amdam, a professor with ASU’s School of Life Sciences and co-author of the paper. “Our amazing discovery was made possible because of 15 years of basic research on vitellogenin. This exemplifies how long-term investments in basic research pay off.”

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One comment on “How bees naturally vaccinate their babies”

  • Unfortunately the bees are not going to become immune to nicotine based insecticides, any more than smokers are going to become immune to cigarettes!
    Meanwhile the agro-chemical industry and some farmers are in denial of the bees being affected by these insecticides which are designed to kill insects, while at the same time experiments are being conducted to try to clean up the contaminated honey to make it fit for marketing as being suitable for human consumption.!

    Analysis of nicotinoid insecticides residues in honey by solid matrix
    partition clean-up and liquid chromatography–electrospray
    mass spectrometry

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