Australian researchers are using “bee doctors” in order to prevent the formation of debilitating fungus on recent crops of cherry trees.
Think Progress reports that the future of fungus-free crops could depend more on the small, fuzzy insects rather than fungicides.
The reason this method works is because the bees are able to deliver a biological control agent to the cherry trees.
This agent actually contains the spores of another fungus that prevents brown rot, which is prevalent among cherry trees as well as other fruit trees.
The agent is sprinkled into the bees’ hives, and the spores of the fungus cling to the bees when they leave and land on flower to gather nectar and pollen.
Katja Hogendoorn, leader of the project, stated , “Normally growers spray [fungicide] once or twice during flowering to prevent brown rot in cherries later in the season…
because they are spraying flowers, and bees go to flowers, we can use bees to deliver the control instead,” explaining the thinking behind the effort.
The use of bees is also much more environmentally sound than using fungicides – there is less run-off to the environment as well as less usage of fuel, labor, and equipment.
Furthermore, bees are more dependable than fungicide.
Think Progress reports that fungicides are only effective if sprayed on flowers that are already open.
As a result, it needs to be sprayed multiple times in order to best protect crops.
Bees, on the other hand, can carry mold-preventing fungus to the flowers over time as they visit them, making their method much more sustainable and likely to work.
As of now, the method hasn’t been used widely.
However, it could work for many other types of fruit trees, as bees are critical pollinators of several key crops in the US.
Commercial honeybee populations have recently been hit hard by colony collapse order, and President Obama has acted by signing an executive order on pollinator health in June, creating a task force whose objective is to address problems facing bees and other pollinators.