Mandatory Vaccination… for Honey Bees?

honey-bees-working-on-honeycomb-cellsGot a minute for a little science today? So, there’s this stuff called vitellogenin that is part of the yolk in most eggs. Vitellogenin is one of the first proteins that form in an egg yolk – the latin “vitellogenin” roughly translates to “yolk maker.” It is present in the eggs of nearly all egg-laying animals and insects – birds, bees, amphibians, reptiles, and most invertebrates. Scientists have studied the stuff since the 80s, but they had never figured out exactly what it does – until now.

Last friday, some researchers from Arizona State University published findings from a study that shed a little light on what this mysterious protein does. They were studying the immune system of the honey bee when they made this discovery. It seems that the vitellogenin protein is a natural method for mothers to pass on immunization to their young. It’s a little something like “natural vaccination.” Here’s how it works:

How Bees Vaccinate their Young

Worker bees go out into the world to gather pollen. While they’re out there, they pick up bacteria from the plants and surfaces that they contact during their work. The workers bring their pollen back to the hive and make it into “royal jelly.” The queen eats the royal jelly – it is something like a perfect food at about 12% protein, 5% fat, and 15% carbohydrate with tons of amino acids, minerals and vitamins. It also contains plenty of pathogenic bacteria – little samples of all the bad bacteria gathered from all over the hive’s foraging range. It’s bacteria soup, literally.

So, the queen inadvertently eats a sampling of all the bacteria from the entire area where her workers are working. This is where the vitellogenin comes in. This protein binds with tiny pieces of bacterial cell walls, and it is then carried through the queen’s blood stream and introduced to the developing eggs. The embryonic bees have their immune systems primed with a sampling of real world bacteria. Through this mechanism, all of the queen’s offspring are “vaccinated” against the bacteria they will likely encounter during their lifetimes.

Should Scientists Manufacture Synthetic Vaccines for Bees?

While this new knowledge is exciting and important, it’s also pretty scary. I wish I could tell you that the scientists stepped back from their research, patted each other on the backs, and said, “Good job. Now that we understand how this natural process works, we can respectfully observe it and continue to learn about it.” But I can’t tell you that. After reading the ASU post on the subject, we can assume that that conversation went more like this, “Good job. Now let’s start manufacturing synthetic bee vaccines.”

At first glance, personally, synthetic bee vaccines seem like a bad idea to me. These would introduce a dependency on humans, and would signal a departure from the natural stasis of bee immunity. Science may know a few bacteria that are acting as parasites of the bee today, but science cannot predict the future of bee parasites. Synthetic immunity could leave the bees susceptible to future changes in the bacterial universe that science does not anticipate or understand. Immunizing the bee against a parasite forcefully, rather than naturally, could have any number of unintended consequences. Unintended consequences could play out directly in the hive among the bees, or indirectly – in the microbiome, among bee predators, or among the flowers that host the bees – just to throw a few possibilities out there.

The Implications of Understanding Vitellogenin

Now that bee scientists have learned about the importance of vitellogenin, it will be interesting to see how this knowledge trickles down to specialists who study other egg-laying animals. On the bright side – we could learn a whole lot about bacterial immunity in different ecosystems, among different animals. On the other side – scientists might start to manufacture synthetic vaccines for a whole slew of sensitive creatures, and unintended consequences could reach far beyond the bee hive. I expect that both of these possibilities will be true – we will learn a lot about how natural immunity works, and we will fiddle with these natural processes without any understanding of the broader consequences.

I’m also curious to see if this new bit of knowledge will have any significance for the immunity of human beings. We have the benefit of carrying antibody proteins in our blood – a luxury that bees don’t have. Human moms pass antibodies to their young through breast milk, kick-starting the baby’s immune system during infancy. Scientists believe that lactation arose in mammals at the same time that yolk-production ceased, over 100 million years ago. Scientists have identified dormant vitellogenin genes in humans, dogs, and armadillos – all milk-producers. It will be interesting to see if we learn anything about the bacterial immunity of humans as a result of this new finding about bees. Time will tell, and I’m sure it will be an interesting story to follow.


The study was published in the journal PLOS Pathology, you can read the original publication here: PLOS Pathogens: Transfer of Immunity from Mother to Offspring Is Mediated via Egg-Yolk Protein Vitellogenin

You can read the announcement from Arizona State, complete with their commentary, here: No shot needed, bees vaccinate their babies naturally

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Michael Ford


Contributor

Michael has been the resident editor at The [Grow] Network since January 2015. Michael grew up in St. Louis, where he became a lover of nature - hiking and fishing his way through the Ozark hills in Missouri. He attended Baylor University in Waco, TX, and he currently lives in Austin. Michael has background experience in small-scale farming, commercial growing, vegetable gardening, landscaping, marketing, and software development. He received his Permaculture Design Certification from the Austin Permaculture Guild in 2013.


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13 Comments
  • bert

    Very interesting find — so here’s what “they” don’t want you to know about vaccination and evolution (as in freedom) and evolution (as in control by the few).

    In the early 1800s, a Englishman named Jenner was playing with syringes and vaccination. He was looking into using vaccines as a way of launching an attack against the US. At that time, it was the dentists who were the roving “lieutenants” in Jenner’s army. He was playing with syphilis, tuberculosis and pox, cow pox.

    He discovered by accident that when saliva or pus discharge from an open wound (in the 1800s called a cancer), from someone infected with syphilis, TB or smallpox … when that spit or pus was applied to the hand of a milk maid, and she then milks a cow from just one teat (of four on her utter) then … and here’s the big point … then when the bacteria from the disease are put in a petri dish with the milk from THAT teat, the bacteria will die. If put in a petri dish with milk from any of the other teats, the bacteria will grow.

    It’s called homeopathy. It’s all about how we are 98% water (or Hydrogen and Oxygen in 2 to 1 proportion), and the vibrations of water.

    The cow’s teat figures out what the vibrations are. These vibrations then instruct the milk glands to produces a milk that will cure any disease with that vibration. Rife used the same idea. (I actually prefer Lakhovsky to Rife, but that’s another discussion.)

    So … where am I going with this …

    Most girls don’t know it, but their breasts are actually 350 million years old. They are the builders of the future immune system for humanity, and evolution.

    Here’s how the human breast works … and then I’ll get back to the amazing story of the queen bee.

    350 million years ago, a newborn baby would, in the blink of an eye as any mother will tell you, get under a bush, and put his little paw in a pile of steaming poop from … a sabre tooth tiger or something. Baby then immediately puts his paw on his mouth, to smell, to taste, to learn. If it’s unpleasant, he then goes back to his mother, and attaches to her breast, or more specifically, her areola and nipple. In fact, when baby attaches, he has “bacterial” signatures from ENTIRE environment arouind him. The areola receives these vibrations, amplified them like a rife machine, and just like Jenner’s cows, produces a milk that will build an immune system that exactly and specifically matches the vibrations in the environment around baby.

    Today, I mother turns her attention for a few seconds, and baby is crawling under the furniture, and putting dust mites and whatever on his lips. He attaches and … tiger poop or dust mites, her areola and breast glands figure out the right vibrations to put in her milk, and that mlik then helps baby build his or her immune system.

    Which explains why MDs do NOT want women nursing babies. Mother’s breasts adapt the milk to match the changing environment, to build a better ongoing and healthy evolution for mankind. MDs don’t like the idea of women having anything to do with evolution … they imagine substituting their vaccines for the natural 350 million year old function of breasts, so that they can exercise total control of evolution which is of course typical narcissistic insanity of the MDs as a group think.

    And now we discover that the queen bee is doing the same thing for upward evoluiton of her kind as well — building stronger immune systems for the future, like the breast function in mammals …

    At this point, I’m almost thinking ALL “scientists” are narcissistically insane.

    I vote save the queen bees, don’t vaccinate them, don’t vaccinate them as an excuse to continue poisoning them … it’s called pleomophism.

  • Edward. Lindemann

    Very interesting,but let’s not jump the gun, we alway dabble in areas where not enough research is carried out cautiously. Then we create another problem.

  • CATRYNA

    This truly is fantastic information. But, I can only imagine how scientists will screw it all up.

    “Scientists believe that lactation arose in mammals at the same time that yolk-production ceased.” And, yet we continue to see animals that persist in bearing young that depend on a yolk for survival. This statement and the thinking of most scientists are based on the erroneous ideas of the “germ theory”, of Pasteur, and the “Theory of Evolution.” This is where they fail to understand or take into consideration that what was “created” had a much more informed intelligence behind it. Something they can never comprehend or even come close to understanding. These scientist, who seem to think they can improve on perfection, are among those who have created more disease, more destruction of the environment, more misery to everything living and are accountable for more life lost, human and otherwise, then any other factor.

  • Chris

    To me, this explains part of how colony collapse disorder works. While the bees are picking up pollen and bacteria, they are also picking up bits of glyphosate (Round-up) and other modern day chemicals sprayed on crops and weeds. We know glyphosate is an antibiotic. Maybe it is killing the bacteria before it has a chance to get into the bees, or maybe it is altering the immune response in the bees, so that they end up without their normal protection against the diseases that bees are vulnerable to. So they get sick. Not to mention the other effects of all those chemicals going into bee eggs.

  • Meme

    We had that as a kid too, was sent round to anyone who had any childhood disease to catch it, that was my vaccination. Worked well and no one died…

  • Brilliant article! And fascinating commentary by Bert, too. Thanks so much!

  • Mrs Sandy

    My guess is; man will screw this up too. Funny how smart a person can be, yet they don’t seem to know when to stop and leave well enough alone. Even if it will make a person rich, some things shouldn’t be done. This money hungry type of thinking is so blinding to them that they don’t seem to care if they can’t undo what they did regardless of that price on all life forms, big or small.

  • Catherine

    ALL natural vaccinations /immunity is passed to the child through the mother and then exposure to the organism. God set this in motion and mankind in all his machinations cannot do better, only worse. Leave the bees and people alone!

    • Peter

      Yes I agree, leave well alone, nature has the best health system in the whole universe, why reinvent the wheel, it’s now round, it goes places, why stuff it up & make it square, bugger that, just leave alone, & stand in awe of this fantastic creation , peter

  • Don Batdorff

    Hi Michael – I just wanted to thank You for writing that excellent article about honeybee culture. They are amazing little creatures. I just want to point out that there is a big difference between vaccination and ingestion. Thank You, Don Batdorff

    • Hi Don – Good point. It’s not actually vaccination that the bees do – or that mammals do with antibodies. They have a common purpose (immunization), but use very different methods. Thanks for adding that – Michael

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