Chemicals like nicotine produced by the tobacco flowers have shown to help reduce the levels of infection caused by a parasite, by approximately 80%.
For the new study, the researchers artificially infected more than 500 eastern bumblebees with a common form of intestinal parasite called Crithidia bombi.
According to the scientists, this parasite is responsible for reducing the bees’ lifespan and is known to affect the queen bee’s production within the colony.
After infecting the bees with the parasite, the researchers let the bees feed on natural nectar and on one of the eight nectar chemicals that are produced naturally, such as nicotine and anabasine.
These two substances are produced by several flowers of plants from the tobacco family.
These substances are known as secondary metabolites and have a high level of toxicity.
The plants produce these chemicals as a defense mechanism to protect themselves against predators.
Researchers observed that after the bumblebees consumed these chemicals, including nicotine, it helped them fight the infection caused by the intestinal parasite by almost 81%.
The scientists said that this was enough to stop the parasite from spreading in and between the whole bee colonies.
The scientists explained that although the secondary metabolites could not save the infected bees, the chemicals were able to stop the parasite from spreading, thus reducing the risk of infecting the entire colony of bees.
According to the recent findings, the bees could benefit from consuming the chemicals as a natural treatment against infections and parasites.
The researchers said that some honeybee growers use thymol produced by the thyme plant as an efficient treatment against mite infestations.
Scientists wonder whether bees have the ability to medicate themselves when they are sick. Some studies suggest that they do, but experts advise farmers and gardeners to give the bees a hand by growing plants that produce chemicals known to help the bees fight infections.
The recent findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
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