Saving bees by regulating epigenetics

This 2021 study investigated an epigenetic treatment for bees forgetting about their hives:

“Over the last few decades, numbers of both wild and managed bee pollinators have been declining. Although reasons for this decline are under debate, it is highly likely that a combination of multiple stressors is to blame, in particular, deformed wing virus (DWV).

Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) are a class of compounds which prevent deacetylation of histones and therefore increase gene expression. The present study found that HDACi sodium butyrate (NaB) significantly increased survival and reversed the learning / memory impairment of DWV-infected bees. We demonstrated the mechanism of how epigenetic regulation can resume honeybees’ memory function.

bee survival rates

  • When bees were infected with DWV, 50% of bees died by the end of day 2 and only 10% survived to the end of day 5.
  • When NaB was added to the diet prior to DWV infection, survival rate of DWV-infected bees (N/D group) remained >90% after 5 days.
  • Under laboratory rearing conditions, around 30% of control bees died over a period of 5 days.
  • When NaB was included in uninfected bees’ diet, less than 15% of bees died.

These results indicate that feeding bees with NaB could significantly increase survival with or without DWV infection.”

https://www.cell.com/iscience/fulltext/S2589-0042(21)01024-5 “Real-time monitoring of deformed wing virus-infected bee foraging behavior following histone deacetylase inhibitor treatment”


Interesting that these researchers didn’t attempt to eliminate either the virus cause of bee behavior or parasitical mites that carried the virus. They mainly depended on bees’ endogenous systems providing beneficial responses when stimulated.

PXL_20211113_113321810

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