Friday, March 12, 2010

Honeybees found infected with rare fungus

Thiruvananthapuram: Scientists attached to the All India Coordinated Research Project on Honeybees and Pollinators at the College of Agriculture, Vellayani, have reported the presence of a rare fungus in specimens of dead bees of an unidentified species collected from Aanadu in the Nedumangad taluk.

The honeybee colony was found dead inside the well in a house on February 24. The bees were found with two to three filamentous structures growing out of their bodies. �It is for the first time the fungus is seen to attack honeybees in India, said S. Devanesan, Professor and Principal Scientist. The bodies of the infected bees were stiff and hard due to the fungus replacing the host tissues inside the viscera.

The fungus, identified as Cordyceps, attacks insects like caterpillars, beetles, bees, ants and other arthropods. The genus has a world-wide distribution and approximately 750 species have been reported so far from Asia, China, Japan, Korea and Thailand. Of this, Cordyceps sinensis is known as caterpillar fungus and is used in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicines. It is considered to have anti-tumour, anti- aging, anti-diabetes, immuno modulating, hypoglycaemic, aphrodisiac and anti-malarial properties. Experiments have revealed that Cordyceps sinensis is capable of protecting the bone marrow and digestive systems of mice from whole body irradiation and preventing liver damage � Cordyceps species thrive in humid temperate and tropical forests. An insect host is required for the growth of the fungus. This ensures the pathogens requirement of optimal temperature and humidity and maximal distribution of the spores,� Dr. Devanesan said.

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