News Stories

Bee Venom Kills AIDS

A new study show that bee venom can kill the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). While we don't recommend getting stung by bees as a preventative, this COULD be incorporated into a protective gel for women.

The secret is a toxin called melittin that's found in the venom.

In the Huffington Post, Cavan Sieczkowski quotes researcher Joshua L. Hood as saying, "Our hope is that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this gel as a preventive measure to stop the initial infection."

This makes it even more imperative that we try to save the bees, and it's not just honey bees that are in trouble. The American bumblebee seems to be disappearing too.

New studies show that wild bees, like the American bumblebee, are increasingly important in pollinating flowers and crops that provide us with food. And--at least in the Midwest--they seem to be dwindling in an alarming manner, possibly from disease and parasites.

On PhysOrg.com, Seth Borenstein quotes entomologist Sydney Cameron as saying, "It was the most dominant bumblebee in the Midwest," but now it's it's disappearing fast. Its range has shrunk by about 23%, although it is still strong in Texas and the West.

Wild bees are difficult to track so scientists have had a hard time knowing what's happening to them. One European team showed that wild bees in general have a larger role in pollinating plants than the honey bees that are trucked in--at record high prices-- to do the job professionally.

Scientists suspect a combination of disease and parasites for the dwindling of both wild and domesticated bees.

With butterflies, it's probably climate change. They're being affected in a way similar to plants and bees in the Northeast United States.

Biologist Ernest Williams focused on Massachusetts butterfly flight periods, comparing current flight periods with patterns going back more than 100 years using museum collections and the records of dedicated citizen scientists. Their findings indicate that butterflies are flying earlier in warmer years.

Williams says, "More and more of the effects of climate change on plants and animals are being discovered. In this study we found that spring-emerging elfin butterflies in Massachusetts are appearing about eight days earlier than they did 24 years ago and that they are especially sensitive to average temperatures in March and April. Summer-emerging hairstreak butterflies, on the other hand, are emerging only about three days earlier than they did 24 years ago. The effect of rising temperatures on butterflies is similar to that on plants and bees but greater than that on migratory birds, showing that living organisms respond differently to climate change. This difference can lead to mismatches between some animals and their food supply."

This means that climate change could have negative implications for bird populations in the Northeast which rely on butterflies and other insects as a food source.

Will we eventually have a silent spring?

One thing WE can't be silent about is all the extraordinary stories about Visitor experiences that we've recorded, just for our subscribers. And we can't be silent about our upcoming Nashville Symposium, either. Come to this sunny city in May, when we GUARANTEE you'll see BOTH bees and butterflies, and hear and talk to some of the most extraordinary speakers around. But don't delay--tickets are selling out fast!



The EU recently voted on whether to ban a toxin known to affect bees, and since I haven't heard any more on it, I suspect they ruled in favour of the toxin. Hope not. But we can all do something to help our bees: plant bee-friendly gardens, keep our own back yards free of pesticides and toxins, support organic farmers and eat more raw, organic honey to encourage more people to take up bee keeping and to do it right. It might not seem like much, but every bit of help counts.

As for bees' medicinal powers, they've been known for centuries, and as the newest discovery about curing AIDs shows, they're probably a lot more extensive and powerful than we yet know. And if I had AIDs, I assure you that I'd gladly be stung as part of my treatment. Medicinal bee stings have also been used for centuries.

The quandary is, though, that we cannot harvest bee stings, either administered by the bees or by doctors, without killing bees. What to do? Those who believe that human lives are more important than the lives of a few million bees might not balk at the mass slaughter of bees to stem the AIDs tide, and who can blame them? On the other hand, as you say, our bees are already in decline and may disappear altogether if we harvest so many of them. And even if we had millions to spare, I don't like the idea of these marvellous little insects being sacrificed for our sakes.

The solution would be to seek other sources of mellitin. I'd be looking in the plant family, starting with all those rainforests that we're also decimating like there's no tomorrow. Nature often provides back ups, or good approximations, so we could look at toxic or stinging plants. Whatever we do, our bees are a treasure that we should be working hard to save and help to thrive.

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