Wildlife is designed with all the resources needed to sustain life without outside help needed. Animals naturally support their communities and constantly help their fellows survive in order to bring added value and strengthen entire habitats. Bees are a special case of insects, as when it comes to their babies, they have the ability to naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments.
A team of researchers from Arizona State University of Helsinki, University of Jyvaskyla and Norvegian University of Life have embarked on a mission to analyze the inner workings of bees’ communities. They found that bees are provided with a special protein that plays a critical and previously unknown role in offering babies protection. Mothers not only give birth to let their offspring run free and fly over nectar filled flowers, but also strengthen their babies with immuno-enhancers since early days of life.
In a honey bee colony, hierarchies are very important. The queen rarely leaves the nest, so worker bees are dedicated to bring food to the boss of them all. Forager bees pick up pathogens in the environment while gathering precious pollen and nectar. The hive hosts worker bees who use the pollen to create the popular “royal jelly”, which is the food especially “cooked” for the queen. This special dish contains bacteria from the outside environment. After ingesting the bacteria, pathogens are digested in the gut and placed to the body cavity, where they are attentively stored in the queen’s “fat body”, which is the liver equivalent found in bees. Pieces of the bacteria are bound to vitellogenin, and carried through the blood to the developing eggs. This is the process of “vaccination” all the eggs go through, to better prepare immune systems to fight diseases found in the environment.
Bees naturally vaccinate their babies through a complex process which depends on perfect organization, distribution and hierarchy, all representative for the amazing life and infrastructure of bees.
Vitellogenin is the natural substance which boosts the health of all the new born individuals in bees’ communities and the carrier of immune-priming signals. This is something researchers did not know until now and at the same time an aspect which offers insightful information which could help us better understand the inner workings of wildlife.
Understanding and making efforts to save bees offers an immense amount of rewards for humans, as honeybees and other types of pollinators are vital to food production. Bees pollinate 87 of the top 115 food crops, so they play a giant role in maintaining economy and food resources.
All egg-laying species have vitellogenin in their bodies so the vaccination technique could be applied to fish, amphibians and reptiles as well.
Image Source: theguardian.com