More than 34 million people worldwide are living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but research recently conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has shown that bee venom, and its main active component, melittin, carried via nanoparticles, is able to destroy unhealthy cells and tumors caused by viruses like HIV.
Melittin is a potent toxin in bee venom, which can poke holes in the protective envelope which surrounds HIV, as well as numerous other viruses. Thankfully and surprisingly, this toxin doesn’t harm healthy cells, only the ones infected with the virus.
While some might argue that AIDS is not caused by HIV, it seems particularly odd that bee venom so effectively treats the HIV virus. HIV is contracted by more than 3 million people under the age of 15 almost every year, so even if the virus doesn’t cause AIDS, it definitely doesn’t lead to our perfected health.
“If there is evidence that HIV causes AIDS, there should be scientific documents which either singly or collectively demonstrate that fact, at least with a high probability. There is no such document.”- Dr. Kary Mullis, Biochemist, 1993 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
All of this would be great news, except that bee populations are being wiped out at staggering rates in almost every country around the world. Bee colonies are disappearing so fast that the fertilization of major crops through pollination is considered a world-wide concern.
So what could be happening here? There's some research pointing to unusually high concentrations of parasites and fungi — which are normally present in bee colonies — but nobody knows why the levels are so high. Pesticides, genetically modified crops and climate change are all being investigated. A theory that cell phone radiation might be a factor was quickly dismissed after briefly topping media reports.
Furthermore, as evidenced in the recent seizure of Terence Ingram’s bees that were resistant to Monsanto’s chemicals, and more than 30 years of his bee research was destroyed, we can hardly look at what other benefits, aside from crop pollination, and the conquering of the HIV virus that bees might offer us. In the meantime, here are five ways you can help the bees and stop colony collapse disorder:
Let's get buzzin'!
Plant things that bees like
Bees are all about pollen. If you want to support the many different varieties of bees which range through your yard, plant some things which will feed them.
The good news here is that bee-friendly plants are easy to grow. Scatter a variety through your yard, ensuring a good supply of pollen through the warm months. A few general pointers: avoid horticultural plants that are "double." These usually have extra petals instead of anthers. And bees prefer flowers that are blue, purple or yellow.
Clover is a great choice. Bees love it, and clover makes attractive and robust ground cover. There are organic varieties available.
Other bee-yummy plants: sage, salvia, oregano, lavender, ironweed, yarrow, yellow hyssop, alfalfa, honeywort, dragonhead, echinacea, bee balm (guess where the name comes from?), buttercup, goldenrod and English thyme.
Flowering trees are also attractive to bees. Try tulip poplars, tupelos, oranges and sourwoods. Don't forget that bees need sources of shallow water. Nichols Garden Nursery has several items to help foster mason bees, an increasingly important variety in view of the domestic honeybee's troubles.
Unless you have particular bee allergies, don't be afraid of attracting pollinators to your property. The "bees" that give most people trouble — yellowjackets, wasps and hornets — aren’t really bees at all, and won’t be attracted by bee-friendly plants.
Provide bee habitat
A secure place to live is crucial to solitary and colony bees. Unlike honeybees, which live in the waxy hives with which we're all familiar, natural bees make use of many kinds of shelter: abandoned animal burrows, dead trees and branches and in underground nest tunnels.
You can help wood-nesting bees by setting out a few inexpensive bee blocks. These are basically blocks of wood with holes of various sizes. Providing a mound or two of loose earth — particularly if they're close to a water source — is like opening a rent-free apartment complex for burrowing bees.
Hosting a few bee shelters will give you the opportunity to watch your visitors thrive.
Eliminate garden pesticides
Pesticides are bad for humans. They're worse for bees. Investigate organic and natural means of pest control.
You'll find plenty of tips at OrganicGardenPests.com. Moving in the direction of organic gardening and natural lawn care is a healthy choice, in any case.
Vibrant, chemical-free plants and gardens are a friendly invitation to wild bees.
Let your veggies bolt
If at all possible, allow a few leafy vegetables in your home garden to "bolt," or go to seed, after harvest.
Seeding plants are a bee's best chance to stock up on food before the colder months. Unlike their wasp and yellowjacket cousins, which die out each winter, real bees slow down and wait for spring. Making sure their larder is stocked will help them snap back once the weather warms.
Support your local beekeepers
Beekeeping as a hobby has declined in recent years. Commercial pressures and unstable bee populations has made raising bees less attractive, but we still rely heavily on domesticated honeybees to pollinate our crops and gardens. Seek out your local beekeepers and buy their honey. There are health benefits to eating local honey, and keeping small beekeepers in business is good for everyone. You're likely to find them selling honey at local farmer's markets and weekend flea markets. Treat yourself to some filtered or comb honey and enjoy one of nature's treasures.
Do you have kids? One of the best things you can do is tour a local beekeeper's hives. Teaching children the interdependence of living creatures is something which will stay with them forever. You'll probably put a smile on some beekeeper's face, too.
You can find your local bee keeper at Friends of Honey Bees.
International Medical Press
The Huffington Post
Mother Nature Network