A very exciting study has been published recently in the Cell Reports concerning honeybees. It seems that we’re not the only living earth occupants that partake in the use of vaccines to ward off illness. We now know that honeybees do too. This study shows that honeybee can share immunity by transmitting RNA ‘vaccines’ through royal jelly and worker jelly throughout the hive. This form of social immunity is very exciting and perhaps might lead to discovering a way to defend against the varroa mite and the viruses they are known to transmit.
The science on this shows “an environmentally mediated RNA cycle among honey bees. The cycle is engaged by consumption of RNA-containing diet by an individual bee. Then, the ingested RNA is spread from the digestive system through the gut cells to the hemolymph, where it is associated with a protein complex. A systemic RNA signal reaches the food secretion glands of nurse bees and is transmitted to the progeny, again, through RNA-containing jelly consumption. This phenomenon is driven by horizontal RNA transfer among individual bees and across generations. Hence, it demonstrates an inherent non-organism autonomous RNA—a transmissible RNA route in honey bees. Such a route could involve transmission of diverse exogenous and endogenous RNA types, including double- and single-stranded RNA corresponding to protein-coding and non-coding genes.” The full paper can be found here
It’ll be interesting if using this knowledge, we might be able to get a handle on the issues of the varroa mite and perhaps get back to having colonies in our apiaries for decades instead of seasons.