They are among the most industrious creatures on the planet, but HONEYBEES still struggle when they’re ill. Once a disease takes hold inside a hive, the bees can become sluggish and disoriented and many may die.
Now it seems, the honeybees may have a way of helping to keep their work-force healthy —– by employing bees that feed MEDICINAL HONEY to other members of the hive. Each hive may have MEDICAL SPECIALISTS that prescribe antibiotic-laced honey to sick workers. A group of worker bees called NURSE BEES, if they are infected with a parasite, selectively eat honey that has a high antibiotic activity, according to Silvio Erler of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Halle, Germany and his colleagues.
These bees are also responsible for feeding honey to the larvae and distributing it to other members of the colony. So, it is possible they are the HIVE’S DOCTORS, prescribing different types of honey to other bees, depending on their infection. If that is true, it could be a big part of how bees fight disease. In Erler’s study, NURSE BEES, infected with a gut parasite were given a choice of honeys. 3 were made from the nectar of plants —- black locust, sunflower and linden trees —— while a 4th was honeydew honey made from the secretions of insects or aphids. Each of the honeys was known to have antibiotic activity.
Bees, with greater levels of infection, tended to eat more of the sunflower honey, which had the strongest antimicrobial activity. It reduced the level of infection, in the bees that ate it, by 7%, compared to the honey from the linden trees. HONEYBEES do have other sources of medicines, besides honey. For example, they collect resin from plants and incorporate it into their nests, where it may help combat fungal parasites.
Honeybees, along with other insects like ants, also display HYGIENIC BEHAVIOUR : workers carry dead members, of the colony, far away to avoid an infection spreading.
——Richard Gray, BBC