Finding ways to boost immunity is the top priority of many researchers. But what about the immunity of the organisms that help provide our food?
Apis mellifera (honeybees/worker bees) pollinate around 80% of our food.  Since the amount of food necessary to feed the human population will soon be insufficient, we must find ways to increase food production. One way to help do this is to instill better immunity for honeybees.
Recently, a study by Skowronek et al. used two methods of administering cannabis to honeybees.  The control group received a water-glycerin solution. There were two experimental groups, one of which was given a 3-mL hemp extract-soaked cotton strip, while the other group received sugar syrup and hemp extract in a 1:1 ratio.
The purpose of the study was to test the ability of cannabis to improve the honeybee’s immunity. Moreover, the researchers hoped to determine which method of administration provides the best results.
The authors observed that cannabis extracts positively affected the honeybees’ metabolic compounds. At the end of the study, a high protein concentration within the fat body of the honeybees, resulting from the hemp solution, indicated the action of cannabis on the honeybee’s metabolic system. Therefore, by stimulating metabolic compounds, cannabis boosted immunity.
The authors also observed a positive–immunostimulating effect through the proteolytic (breakdown of proteins into amino acids and polypetides) system. Both experimental groups experienced a reduction in protease activity. However, the group that received hemp strips experienced a more significant decline.
Alkaline proteases are involved in the honeybee’s Dopa formation, which leads to sclerotization (stiffening of tissues) activation and myelinization (formation of the myelin sheath around a nerve fiber), sealing the bee’s body. The pathogens are then locked within melanotic nodules where they disintegrate.
The authors speculated that the hemp extract strips provided an external shield against pathogens on the honeybees’ bodies, which was responsible for the reduction of protease activity. Then, cannabis stimulated protein synthesis within the fat body.
Biomarker activity for the group that received their extract on cotton strips was lower than the other two groups. However, the control group and the group who received the hemp syrup experienced an increase in biomarker activity. Since biomarkers control susceptibility to pathogens, this indicates that the hemp strips sealed the primary immune barriers, preventing penetration.
Lastly, the method of administration should vary according to the bees’ health problems. Bacteria, fungi, and viruses easily penetrate organisms, so stimulating the bee from within with a cannabis solution is helpful. In the case of larger parasites, the hemp-soaked strips might be best.
Reference Skowronek, P.; Wójcik, Ł.; Strachecka, A. Cannabis extract has a positive–immunostimulating effect through proteolytic system and metabolic compounds of honey bee (Apis mellifera) workers. Animals. 2021;11:2190. [journal impact factor = 2.752; times cited = 0]