Facebook Twitter

Honeybees have been socially distancing to avoid illnesses for a lot longer than humans

Honeybees have social immunity measures, such as social distancing and pseudo-vaccines, to keep their colony safe, researchers say

SHARE Honeybees have been socially distancing to avoid illnesses for a lot longer than humans
A honeybee hives near Utah State University in Logan.

A honeybee hives near Utah State University in Logan. Studies on social interactions with honeybees showcase how adept they are in controlling diseases collectively to keep the colony healthy, according to The Conversation.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

As the world continues to fight the pandemic, the challenge of curbing the spread of the coronavirus still persists. A key defense strategy is social distancing, though it has proven difficult in places like nursing homes and college campuses.

Studies on social interactions with honeybees showcase how adept they are in controlling diseases collectively to keep the colony healthy, according to The Conversation.

Honeybees, like humans, are social creatures. Thousands of them work together to create wax comb, gather food and tend to the young. It takes a village to raise a child — and the same can be said for honeybees.

But living in such a big community brings the risk of disease, which is why honeybees have evolved to create social immunity in multiple forms using social distancing and pseudo-vaccines, according to Alison McAfee, a honeybee researcher at North Carolina State Unversity, per Wired.

  • “They have this really neat strategy where they can actually share small bits of molecules that look like a virus among one another and that lends them immunity,” she explained. “It can be thought of as a vaccine.”
  • A study revealed that bees pass molecules via the jellies they secrete in the honeycomb for larvae to eat. They coat their hive in propolis, which has antimicrobial properties and almost acts like a sanitizer.
  • Honeybees are much more ruthless in their approach than humans. “They essentially murder the sick,” said McAfee.