What on earth is a microsponge? And what do beekeepers do with them? In this episode, we talk with James Webb, CEO, and Nate Reid, Operations Manager at Beemmunity Labs on the exciting research and product development underway. They fill us in on a...
What on earth is a microsponge? And what do beekeepers do with them?
In this episode, we talk with James Webb, CEO, and Nate Reid, Operations Manager at Beemmunity Labs on the exciting research and product development underway. They fill us in on a very creative way that our honey bees can now manage exposure to common agricultural pesticides.
They have created a microparticle that is composed of a detoxifying treatment encapsulated in a protein shell that can be fed to your bees in a sugar syrup solution. This treatment detoxifies pesticides that are consumed by your bees in pollen or nectar and are then passed through their systems, then removed during their next cleansing flight.
So far, it seems that any pesticide that they have fed to their bees has been neutralized at or very near 100%. Plus, you can use this during honey flows if you feed your bees a treated pollen patty. Instant protection, all of the time. If you are treating for mites, remove the strips before applying the the microsponge treatment.
Other positive features are that you only need to feed every three weeks or so, but, if you live in an area where pesticides are applied often, you can feed just before spraying or treated seed is planted and ensure protection for the whole season with treatments every three weeks. Plus, it has a long, uncomplicated shelf life so storage is inexpensive.
Finally, your bees can be safe from agricultural pesticides. It’s getting better out there.
Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:
This episode is brought to you by Global Patties! Global Patties is a family business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will help ensure that they produce strong and health colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Global offers a variety of standard patties, as well as custom patties to meet your specific needs. Visit them today at http://globalpatties.com and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode!
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Jeff: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news information and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.
Kim: I'm Kim Flottum.
Introduction: Hey, Jeff, and Kim. Today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family-operated business that manufacturers protein supplement patties for honeybees, it's a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honeybees. Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs.
No matter where you are, Global is ready to serve you out of there manufacturing plants in Airdrie, Alberta, and in Butte, Montana or from distribution depots across the continent. Visit them today at www.globalpatties.com.
Jeff: That's right, Sherry. Hey, everybody, each week we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsors support to help make all of this happen and provide us all the technology and all the whiz-bang things to help bring you each episode each week. With that, thanks to Bee Culture Magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship in this podcast. Bee Culture has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today. We also want to thank 2 Million Blossoms for sponsoring this episode.
2 Million Blossoms is a quarterly magazine dedicated to protecting all pollinators, learn more in our season two, episode nine podcast with editor Kirsten Traynor trainer and from visiting www.2millionblossoms.com and that is with the number two. Also check out the new 2 Million Blossoms the podcast, also available from the 2 Million Blossoms website or from wherever you download and stream your shows. Hey, everybody, thanks a lot for joining us. We are really happy you're here. Hey, Kim, Happy September.
Kim: I can see winter from here. Since last week, the weather has taken an abrupt change in my part of the world it's suddenly cool and sunny and dry which is odd but I'm enjoying it. I'm glad I'm not in the South or the Northeast.
Jeff: That's right. I was going to say the just east of you, they're getting inundated with water and I hope everybody is safe and without too much trouble living in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, New York. That's pretty rough. Hope all of our beekeeper friends are doing well.
Kim: Yes, we do. Well, what that does, of course, with the change in seasons Jim and I in Honey Bee Obscuraare going to be talking about getting ready for winter and winter packing. Coming up, just out, one of the things that beekeepers run into whether they want to or not, is because they keep bees everybody in the world seems to think they know everything there is about other insects. Right about now, hornets and yellowjackets and bumblebees and all sorts of creatures are beginning to get big populations and people are worried about them.
Jim and I take a look at how to handle those questions, what to do with them what you should do, what you shouldn't do, what kind of liability is involved. It's not as simple as it seems.
Jeff: No, coincidental that you have that episode that just came out. Just last week, I was walking out to the barn there's a little pathway between the house and the barn, and something thumped me in the back of the head right square in the back of the head and I felt that thump before we all have I knew what it was. I walked a little bit more briskly and got into the barn and turned around and looked and right above my head a long the pathway is a soccer ball size bald-faced hornet nest. It was like Yikes, and so accordingly I said, this is a great episode.
We got some pictures I sent to Jim too, that he included in the video moment, just real quick of that brand new hornet's nest, but I did call Outfit who collects hornets and yellow jackets for venom purposes and they're going to come by and collect them. If all goes well, I'll do a quick little interview with them as they collect and we'll have it on an upcoming episode.
Kim: That'd be good. I'd watch from the house.
Jeff: Well, I'm going to interview them before they do everything. [chuckles] I've had enough encounters with bald-faced hornets and yellow jackets, and that's enough. Well, speaking of the fall, will you have an update on the Ohio Bee Conference?
Kim: Yes. Jerry after a lot of hand wringing, they decided that were going to postpone it. Speakers were having issues with traveling and it just got to be a little bit dangerous, a little bit scary and a little bit difficult to get everybody there. Rather than try and make it work, he's just going to let it go until next year and do it again.
Jeff: Well, that's too bad. I was looking forward to that and I'm sure everybody was but that's the way of the world right now.
Kim: Yes, it's not getting a lot better fast.
Jeff: No. Each week, Kim, we invite our listeners to send us letters and we've received a couple. Let me read a couple and we can respond to them. The first one is, we got a email from Rex and Rex question, I had a question about Jerry Hayes's interview last week, where Jerry is opposed and I'll read part of his email here says, "Jerry Hayes is opposed to vaporizing oxalic acid because it might get on the bees antenna, which is used for smelling, can you please refer to some legitimate research that looks at the effect of OAV on honeybee antenna?"
We did contact Jerry and Jerry did provide two research reports the effects of oxalic acid on Apis mellifera, and sub-lethal effects of oxalic acid on Apis mellifera changes in behaviour and longetivity. He provided those two reports and we will provide links to those studies in the show notes.
Kim: Jerry, he's on the Honeybee Health Coalition and Project Episem and he's got his fingers in a lot of really current research. I wasn't surprised that he had two references right now.
Jeff: Plus, being at the head of the classroom in ABJ column for every month for years and years and years, so if Jerry has something to say I listen to him pretty closely. The next letter, I'll let you respond to this, but this was fun. This is from David M. He says that, "Hey, Kim, and Jeff, just love the lady's voice who does the better be commercial ads? Who is she and have you considered having her on the show?" I'll let you answer this one, Kim.
Kim: Well, that lovely voice belongs to my wife, Kathy Summers, who works with Jerry on Bee Culture Magazine, worked with me for years and years and years until I stepped back. The person doing the other commercial Jeff and we decided to use it a little bit different voice for the one that we've got now and I tell you when that letter came in, you made her day, so from Kathy, thank you.
Jeff: Thanks a lot, Dave. This is a beekeeper-run operation here and everybody's involved. [laughs]
Kim: Yes, whether you want to be or not.
Jeff: That's right, we enlist the help of everybody. Hey, Kim, we have a great series of episodes coming up, we might as well call it our nutritional series.
Kim: Yes. I'm looking forward to this because there's a lot of information coming out that, interestingly hasn't been explored a lot until now. The honeybee nutrition people are working on through the bee and butterfly people was that Pete Berthelsen?
Jeff: Pete Berthelsen.
Kim: His job in life is to create habitat for bees and butterflies or butterflies and what have you, but if you change habitat to forage, he's also doing that. So, he's working to provide more food for bees out there.
Jeff: It's providing the foundation for nutrition.
Kim: Right. Good.
Jeff: Better forage.
Kim: Then Gloria Hoffman from the USDA Bee Lab in Tucson has been looking at something that is seasonal needs of bees, they different in the spring than they do in the fall, and how does that affect beekeeping and beekeepers, and can we fine-tune what we're feeding bees and I think she's got some good answers.
Jeff: Absolutely. Then after that, at the end of the month, we have Dave Aston, talking about his new book Good Bees Good Nutrition, that light read.
Kim: It's a big book and there's a lot of information and he covers a lot of ground. I wrote a review of it in Bee Culture and covered some things but we're going to talk to him in person and he's going to open a lot of doors on information on what I call Applied Nutrition. He takes what we know and he puts it to use for the bees and beekeepers
Jeff: We have a great series of episodes coming up. Folks, we've talked about this before, if you're not a subscriber or follower of Beekeeping Today Podcast, do so today. Just go up there and click on the website and subscribe, follow today, and make sure you don't miss any episodes of Beekeeping Today Podcast. Coming up today, though, we do have James Webb of Beemmunity. He's taken some of the research that's current today on protecting honey bees and productizing it.
Kim: He's got something called microsponges. That puts an image in your head, I'm waiting to see what he's going to talk about.
Jeff: Yes, I wash the dishes every night and I can imagine this.
No, this will be a good talk, folks. Coming up immediately is James Webb of Beemmunity. Also, last thing before we get there, we provide transcripts of each episode. We hope that you find them useful. Let us know if you do, or if you know a beekeeper who uses the transcripts, that's important. All right, Kim, let's get on with our talk with James Webb from Beemmunity. A quick word from our friends at Strong Microbials.
Speaker 1: Hello, beekeepers. Your honeybees face a lot of challenges out there. Unbalanced food sources from monoculture crops, holding yards, drought, food, shortages, antibiotics, pesticides, and pathogens like chalkbrood. To overcome these challenges, your bees need the multiple bacteria that are in all nectars, pollens, and the environment. These bacteria aid honeybee's digestion and improve your honeybee's response and resilience to pesticides.
Now, you can help improve your honey colony health with a quick, easy, and safe to use product. Strong Microbials' Super DFM-Honey Bee uses naturally occurring bacteria to restore the healthy gut biome of your honeybees. Check them out today at www.strongmicrobials.com.
Jeff: While you're at the Strong Microbials site, make sure you click on and subscribe to The Hive, their regular newsletter full of useful information and product news. Welcome back. Right now, sitting across the virtual Zoom table with Kim and I right now is James Webb, CEO, and Nate Reid, operations manager of Beemmunity. Welcome guys. Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast.
James: Thanks, Jeff and Kim. Thanks for having us.
Nate: Thanks for having us. Great to be here.
Kim: Nice meeting you guys. You've got quite an interesting product here. It was brand new to me until just very recently. I probably know as much as most of the people listening. I guess, what does Beemmunity do?
James: Sure. We have a product, so treatments to bees. The idea is our treatment detoxifies any pesticides that bees consume, relieving them of those impacts that the pesticides give them.
Kim: That's a powerful statement right there. Let that sink in. At what point does that work? Or at what point does the product kick in? Or how long inside the bee is the pesticide there before it attaches or does its magic?
James: It's quite a case dependent with how the pesticide might act. It depends on the concentration of which the bees exposed to. Our microsponges, we call them, they can be integrated into a pollen patty or sugar syrup. The pesticides, obviously consumed and they hung around the gut. At the same time, the beekeepers are able to see our microsponges to the bees, and any pesticides are scavenged and diverted away from the targets, the brain, and the important organs that those pesticides might impact into the microsponges.
Then they're expelled out in the stool making sure that the bee is cleansed. That's how it works. With further researching and understanding the intricacies of how the interactions happen in the gut. That's the broad strokes.
Kim: The first thing right off the top that I see is that it sounds like this is working when bees consume a pesticide that is in nectar in all probability, and/or perhaps pollen also?
James: Right. Yes, exactly. Definitely, oral exposure primarily.
Kim: Which is probably the avenue of greatest exposure for bees and pesticides that exists is when they are feeding on a plant that has been sprayed and some of that spray. Now, it gets interesting here. What about pesticides that are absorbed by the plant? That's where you're going to get nectar that's got pesticide in it. What about a plant that's been sprayed with an airplane, and that spray is sitting on the surface of the flower, how does that work.
James: Sure. Obviously, there is the opportunity for contact exposure there, or maybe there's some pollen which is coated with pesticide. That pollen might be transported back to the hive as a source there. We're not entirely clear on the contact exposure protection at the moment. We're still developing this for field purposes. We've done a lot of lab studies with oral consumption of pesticides and seeing how that works. We've got really promising data so far. Yes, still some work to be done on the contact exposure thing. It's a good point you raised, Kim.
Kim: The concept of a microsponge, this is interesting. I guess for someone who isn't familiar with your product yet, what is a microsponge?
James: We've developed these tiny little, I guess you can call them droplets. They basically have an oil coat, very simple coat, and on the outside is the key part that we take insect proteins. These proteins can specifically recognize pesticides. Normally, if a human consumed a lot of these pesticides, our bodies wouldn't recognize them. Our bodies wouldn't necessarily be affected by a lot of these pesticides in the same way that insects recognize as pesticides.
We take these insect proteins, and as they recognize the proteins, the microsponges are able to actually sequester them inside the core of the microsponge. That renders them inactive or not candidly inactive, but it renders them in a way that they can't access their target organs of the bee. We can basically create a fake cell if you like, where pesticides will go into that fake cell and not attack the real cells that the bee wants to protect. That's how it works.
Jeff: Interesting. I'm visualizing all the diagrams I've seen in the last 14 or 16 months of the COVID, and how that it attaches, and visualizing the pesticide molecule, and how the microsponge encapsulates that and keeps it from attaching to whatever its receptor cell is or receptor is. What about any pesticide that's already attached to its target?
James: As pesticides make their way to the brain or neuron cells, by hemolymph, and a lot of those pesticides bind-- they can't be released after they bind. We can only really deal with things that remain in the digestive tract. It's much better to be preventative rather than trying to cure this. Obviously, if a bee is getting hammered by pesticides in the first place, it's probably not going to do a very good job of eating or functioning so it might be too late by then. It's really a preventative treatment.
Jeff: All right. Kind of vaccine in today's terminology. [laughs]
Kim: In a way, yes.
James: In a way, yes, it's definitely important to note that it's not a one-time deal and it needs to be reapplied. We're working on the methods of application in the field trials that we're carrying out now. It's something that people will need to use over and over again, but you're going to want to target it at times when you feel them on pesticide application or in lower doses over a great period of time. We're better understanding the nature of how much you need to apply it, and what time of year, whether it's in pollen or sugar, what works better?
Kim: A bee needs to be constantly exposed, or not exposed. A bee needs some of this stuff in its gut all of the time? Or all of the time that it's likely to run into a pesticide in its environment someplace. If I'm near soybeans and I know they're going to spray soybeans, sometime before they spray, I apply this, I feed this to my bees and they go out, they get exposed to it. The stuff does its job. They excrete it and they're done spraying soybeans. I don't have to feed it anymore. Is that basically how it would work?
Interviewee: That’s right. That's been a big part of what we've been trying to look into is find out a way that our application A fits in with beekeepers’ timing and what they're going to be doing that time of year. One of the first things that we looked at this year was the blueberry harvest on the East Coast, so the blueberry crop. Because we know we constantly see bees coming out of there showing symptoms that look like a European foulbrood and ultimately there's really only one thing on the shelf right now that I know every beekeeper's using and that's Terramycin.
We're looking at preventative exposure. There's also the idea of overwintering. If your bees are going into a cold storage, do you want to try and clean them up before they get put away? Is it just the mites that you have to worry about? We're trying to map what that exposure looks like, and then find a way that we can insert this technology in way that's going to be convenient for them with the management practices they're already doing.
Kim: Well, you bring up a good question here when you say mites, because I'm putting pesticides in my hives, or some beekeepers are putting pesticides in their hives frequently. There are different kinds of chemicals. Some of them are not like organic acids, but the other actual chemicals. What does that do? Is your microsponge sucking up my miticide?
James: I don't think it's sucking up the miticides if we're talking-- I guess it depends on what treatment you're talking about, whether you're using a fume-based treatment or a contact-based treatment. Right now, we have no reason to believe that it would hinder the efficacy of your mite treatment that's in there, because it does need to be consumed. Our treatment, it's not topical, it's going to do its best work inside the gut of the bee.
There's no reason right now to believe that it would contradict your mite treatment, but it might be something that works well to put on after you do, if you're doing three rounds or whatever you're using if you're worried about that.
Jeff: Well, actually this raised a great question. We talked to it, but I'm not clear. Is this a granule powder that they consume or is it fed as a syrup? How does the bee ingest the product?
James: It can either be through a syrup or in a pollen patty. Just typical beekeeping.
Jeff: We don't keep calling it the product. What do you call this product?
James: Well, we've had a few names I've come across. Still maybe trying to land on a good one. It's microsponges primarily. We had the leg break at one point that it wasn't any kind of different form at that point in time.
Kim: I wouldn't want to google that one really, actually, I would tell you.
Nate: That's one of the beautiful things I see about this technology, and what James created is that it is applicable in many different ways for a beekeeper and a lot of those ways involve sucrose. Of course, we’ve seen sucrose and pollen patties, fondant, syrup feedings and we're developing a powder form that's really going to stand out the test and rigor of beekeeping, keeping it in a hot room, opening the package, and just rolling it back together. We're working to make this thing as solid as possible.
Kim: When you say sucrose, I'm guessing high-fructose corn syrup is equally as good?
James: Yes. I'm not an expert on how high fructose corn syrup is consumed by bees relative to sucrose stuff, but we could put it in anything quite easily,
Kim: That's what the commercial industry is going to be buying high fructose corn syrup as a liquid by the barrel. If it works equally well with high fructose corn syrup as it does with sucrose, you're okay. Just clearing that up and make sure?
James: Yes, that’s it. We've primarily been testing in pollen patties because we found that that's quite a nice way to give a boost, because you're feeding that protein source, but then you're also throwing in detoxifying element as well. That is a kind of a standalone product might be a good option for beekeepers as well as the fructose corn syrup option.
Sponsor: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Beekeeping Today Podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment, and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges, and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions. From their colorful catalogs to they're supportive beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast, Betterbeee truly lives up to their tagline of beekeepers, serving beekeepers. See for yourself at betterbee.com.
Kim: I'm going to go back to a point we already looked at, but when I feed this to my bees and I'll go back to my soybean spray, and I know they're going to spray in the next week or so, so I'm feeding this before they spray so that I've got it in the hive. Then when they're done spraying, how long does that continue to protect them once I feed it to them?
Nate: I'm in a pollen patty form, it depends if you're feeding a half-pound or one pound and how big your colony is. It'll go on protecting as long as it's in the hive. What we're also mapping out now and figuring out is, does this end up in the honey in any significant way? If it were to end up in the honey, one, would it be tolerable for harvesting? Two, will the bees reach a threshold to where they would be exposed to it later on and get a second reapplication of it?
To our knowledge, the nurse bees are going to be the first ones to eat that up in the hive, and then they're not going to take a cleansing flight until they age out at the hive. It depends on when the bee first consumes it to when they first take their cleansing flight. If I was at the hazard how many days it stays in the midgut, James, maybe you could share.
James: Well, as you were saying, I was trying to summarize out of that and say, with a pollen patty, it might be consumed over a week or two. Then the actual microsponge is going to stay in the gut for over two days probably in the area where it's going to be actively useful. There's a real-life exposure by doing it by pollen patty because that really gives you the feeding time which is a good way to doing it.
Jeff: You mentioned the nurse bees. Is it transferred to larva and is there any effect on the larva as well?
James: Yes. That's been something that we've been looking at. We've been tagging these things and sharing that. There is a transfer. We have more work to do on that front to show the conclusive evidence. Early data suggests that that might happen, but we're not entirely sure. We can't say conclusively, whether there's a health benefit yet to the larva, and what that really looks like. Definitely looking more into that. We're still working with Cornell. We'll be doing tests with the larva, they've got up there doing those larva assays. That's another kind of exciting things that there might be.
Kim: I would guess that they're protected for the entire time they were in the cell because they don't defecate until just before they spin their cocoon. If they're fed this substance, they got a made nothing's going to get to them. You're telling me that every chemical that you're going to run into they're protected against. From a beekeeper's perspective, this is great. I'm not going to have any problems with my lab or my nurse bees or my larva and the field bees. The only issues that aren't resolved yet are contact versus eating. You're offering me another 100% free ride, but real close. This sounds really good.
James: We're trying to be an option which caters for all pesticide exposure, which is, it's just a real key. I think, it's becoming more and more clear that the pesticide synergisms are a key contributor to a lot of hive loss and some of those other elements, with mites, can be exacerbated through pesticides. We hope that we've got a pretty handy solution. We started off through other iterations of the design where we just target organophosphates.
There's actually a publication on that recently out on that initial technology, but we've moved it forward to make sure that we can cater for all the whole cocktail of pesticides that are out there so that a beekeeper is using it with the peace of mind that, "Okay, whatever's going into the hive at the time that he's treating, there's not going to be any impact on that."
Nate: I think until you can solve for contact exposure, which is something we are working on, the next best thing to do is protect the future generation, and that starts with the brood, so that's really what we're we're happy to see.
Jeff: Just to restate, this is in the digestive system and the gut, not in the hemolymph is where the activity of the product, the microsponge takes place, correct?
James: Yes, exactly.
Kim: It's too bad this doesn't work out with a fat body. We could probably do some damage to the mites.
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Kim: What have I missed on this? It sounds great. Can I get a court someplace?
James: Soon. As I said, we've transitioned out of the Lab of Cornell where we were doing this research. We had 8% of colonies, a lot of microcolonies at 50 bees. They would survive the pretty lethal pesticide exposure that they presented with, where 0% of the non-treated ones survived. Based on that, we've taken it now into field trials and we've been building that up. We started partnering with other beekeepers large-scale beekeepers that can provide a larger scale field trial.
Over time, we're looking to gather data to say, "This time of year you're going to get that kind of benefit in that crop, et cetera. We really want to make sure that we're transparent with the beekeepers as to what the economic benefit is of using this product. Once we have that data then this will be out there on the shelves, but we're very open to working with beekeepers and doing trials, selling it at a cost price. We've had a lot of citizen scientists, beekeepers, approach us, wanting to work with us, which is great. We're very willing to work with them. If you do want to call early on.
Jeff: I do have a question just to follow up, you say the microsponging encapsulates the active ingredient in the pesticide and essentially the bee poops it out later. What happens to that chemical in the backend? It's just reintroduced into the environment at that point, isn't it?
James: Yes. Back to where I came from, I guess. Back on the earth, better outside the bee than in the bee, but yes, it does.
Jeff: The purpose is to get it out of the bee, I was just curious. Also, if this works for honeybees and we focus mostly on honeybees, but we work with Kirsten Traynor on 2 Million Blossoms Podcast, and we have many friends who are interested, and all pollinators. This sounds like it would be a great product for native pollinators and any insect affected by pesticides. Is that true?
James: Definitely, yes. We were doing a lot of tests with bumblebees as well. Great results there. We're actually looking into ways in which we can feed this to native bees as well. We're developing actually a consumer products for the gardeners, garden owners, schools, museums, that kind of thing in which they can feed their bees around the world because pesticides are everywhere, they're transported in our rivers.
There's a lot of drifts going on as well. The whole plethora of bees can benefit from this. The key is how you actually can feed those into pollinators. Honeybees, they're pretty happy for anything you put in front of them, but the fluffier ones are a little more picky. We're actually addressing that. We have some pretty exciting stuff coming out in the consumer products. If people stay tuned with social media and things, they'll see things coming up soon.
Jeff: You can go into your favorite big box store and right next to your bottle of-- weed-b-gone is your bottle of Beemmunity and you can spray them at the same time. [crosstalk]
James: Something like that, not quite. We definitely don't want to encourage- pesticide use is one thing to be clear on, I think. This is definitely until the time where bees aren't affected by pesticides, for some Utopia reason then we're happy to make an impact and produce as many insect deaths as we can. Definitely, this is a way that we can curb some of the deaths with finding without trying to encourage pesticide use.
Jeff: This is really some positive news. I like the sound of all this.
Kim: I'm going to go back to the very beginning, the basics of this microsponge. As I understand it, you said it was outer shell of insect protein and then inside it had an oil. The pesticide was attracted to the other outer shell of insect protein, and then it was consumed essentially, or encapsulated in the oil inside. How do you produce that outer shell of insect protein?
James: That's a good question.
Kim: It's just a proprietary thing that you developed.
James: There's aspects of proprietary that's chosen.
Jeff: Lots of mealworms.
James: We use insect proteins, the source, and the manufacture protocol, so where we have a patent pending at the moment. I'm not sure how wise it'd be further disclose that but... Yes, broad strokes. We take insect proteins, which are easily manufacturable and we have quite scalable and cheap products. It's not some crazy bio-technology, cool wizardry, and something that's just very hard to produce.
It's as cheap and scalable, but we use these insight proteins because a lot of these pesticides now, neonics, in particular, are specifically engineered to target insect proteins. Neonics, as the example, they target some of these acetylcholine receptors in insects. We did have those particular acetylcholine receptors. I wouldn't advise anyone to go and drink a load of imidacloprid or whatever it might be, but technically it shouldn't do too much to you, but bees it definitely does. or whatever it might be, but technically it shouldn't do too much to you, but bees it definitely does.
Kim: That tells me what I needed to know. That leads me to another question on the protein, not how it's manufactured, but how long does it last? That's because I'm not a microbiologist. I don't know enough about proteins. Is this going to, after some point in time, become not functional?
James: Yes. We put it in sugar media essentially, which really helps with the stability which is really lucky, because obviously bees like that sugar. We manufacture it and then sugar media, which helps to stabilize the proteins, sugar crystalline, in its crystalline form has an ability to do that. That really helps but it's catching a dry stable form which starts long. We've been able to package this up and store it away in a cool dry place, and it's useful for a while.
Kim: So, it'll have an extended shelf life?
James: Yes, exactly.
Kim: That's good. That's so good because if I buy some this year and don't use it, next spring, it'll probably still work. That's good.
James: Exactly. For transparency that we've seen, it can work for a long period of time. Over years, we still want to do those tests in full honesty but yes, it's good for a while. We'll have more info out that one day. It will be good for years. [chuckles]
Jeff: It doesn't require super cold freezing temperatures and [crosstalk]- - I apologize for this guys because I was so excited to get to the topic, because this is really exciting topic and a great topic, but I didn't ask for either your backgrounds in both in bees and research or-- so before we sign off, James and Nate, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves, your backgrounds and history with bees.
Nate: I'll go first because James is going to sound a lot better than me.
James: I don't about that. I don't know about that. Not to beekeepers anyway.
Nate: That's been the synergy here much like we're finding the way some of these things work out in the field. I brought some beekeeping experience. I went to University of Maryland and worked with Galen Dively in his entomology lab and did a few seasons there. Picked up some queen-rearing experience along the way. The last five years I was a full-scale commercial, running migratory bees for almond production, blueberry production, and overall honey production. That's when I've found Beemmunity in New York. I came on board.
Jeff: Very good.
James: Right, modest. [crosstalk] He's really changed our understanding of how this works and just the combination of industry and research experiences brought us a long way. Props to Nate for sure. From my side, I graduated over here in the UK, I'm currently over in the UK but based in America these days. Graduated in the UK and I spent some time actually working for an insect feed startup. Someone came up with the idea of producing insect feed to feed animals.
I have a bit of entomology experience. Then started my master's over at Cornell University in Upstate New York. I worked in biomaterials lab there and came up with this idea that we could potentially detox five pesticides within a bee. For some reason, my professor thought it was a good idea and gave me funding to pursue that idea for a couple of years. We had a small team out there and we were collaborating with the anthropology lab at Cornell. We did a few different designs where we would detoxify pesticides in a test tube and then see what would work in a bee. We had some success, we've got a publication in the journal Nature Food.
After I graduated I thought, "Well, this could potentially be useful for beekeepers. Let's try and license this thing. I get it out there." We're still in early days of the company having been formed and taking this thing to market. We're adamant we're going to do so. Hopefully, good things to come. It really just came from a small idea and a very, I guess open-minded professor. Prof. Mark at Cornell, thank you very much [chuckles] for believing in us.
Jeff: Fantastic. That's really exciting.
Kim: Well, Cornell has quite a history with being interested in bee research with Roger Morrison, Nick Calderon. You fit right in there.
James: Exactly. They've got a lot of bee expertise there and a lot of the professors that we spoke to there. Prof. Scott McCart, notably they really helped to kind of collaborative effort. I think that's kind of what has really helped with our success because the pesticide problem is that it's a chemical problem and it's not one that can be easily solved by entomologists alone, it really requires collabortive effort. I think that's a really handy thing that we've managed to introduce by breaching some of those gaps. We've come up with a novel solution, which is different to most things out there.
Jeff: Is there anything you'd like to mention we haven't asked about yet?
Nate: I will have to say, we had some enormous help through some of the other commercial beekeeping outfits who responded to our calls and were willing to answer questions, and let us work with their bees and poke around. I just want to give a big thanks to Merrimack Valley Apiaries and Harvey's Honey in New Jersey. They were a big help and it's not always easy to accommodate your schedule when you have people coming in that don't really know what you're doing or what your schedule is and having to help accommodate. That was a big help.
Kim: You found two good outfits to work with out there.
James: I know. Yes, I mean, from my perspective, I think anything to add is where we're seeing promising results, but this is biology and things take a while to prove out with conclusive results. We're working hard behind the scenes to make sure that this is a very crystal clear-- the benefits are crystal clear. It's also research that hopefully sets a grounding for future research to come advancing the field. So, stay tuned.
Jeff: Well, I want to invite you. I know it's difficult at times to find an avenue to communicate your successes and any kind of announcements, but you're always welcome to reach out to us. We'll be happy to have you back on. We also have the audio postcard, so if you don't really want to be a full hour of an interview and you just want to send us a quick audio memo, we can do that too for our listeners to give us an update. We love to have you back and hear how the product is going and look forward to product launches next spring, next fall?
James: Yes. Next spring, definitely we hope to have a far situation out off the back of the rest of the researchers, so yes I should.
Kim: Where would I go look for information?
James: Our website beemmunity.co, that's two Es and two Ms in beemmunity.co. There's plenty of information out there. Definitely feel free, anyone, to reach out, you can email us, all the information is on there. We'd be there to talk to anyone who's got interest.
Jeff: We'll have your links on the website.
Kim: Yes, good. Well, this is great. I'm looking forward to being able to use this product and I'm glad you're going to make it available to the industry. It's something that-- it's a bandaid in a big bleeder, and I hope it helps a lot. It sounds like it's going to, so for your work, thank you.
Jeff: Thank you.
James: Thanks, Jeff and Kim, that was great.
Nate: Pleasure talking with you both.
Jeff: I'm ready to go out and buy some of that. If there was some at the local bee store, I'll be buying some Beemmunity microsponges.
Kim: Yes, and I'm anxious for this product to be ready. It's going to help a lot of beekeepers. I think the good side is that there's a bandaid to put on the pesticide problem. The bad side of the problem is that there's still a problem, and there's still pesticide being put into the environment way more than we need and way more kinds than we need. I'm glad these guys have solved part of the problem for bees and beekeepers. It's going to make life easier for all of those, but there's still too much poison out there.
Jeff: I agree. I'm looking forward to hearing from them coming up in the future, hearing about all that continued research for some of the questions we had, they didn't quite have the answers yet. I think they're onto something really good.
Kim: I think so. I'm pleased to see that this product will be available next spring and it's not going to solve all the problems, but it's going to really help a lot. I'm one of them.
Jeff: The one thing I will say that James was kind of-- he was admittedly a little shy about talking about was the protein-based for the insect protein. My first thought was, "Boy, I hope they're not importing those Asian giant hornet larva into the Pacific Northwest.
Kim: I think you had, what was it you said mealworms?
Jeff: Mealworms, yes.
Kim: They raised those by the ton for chickens. It's candy for chickens. This is a good use to mealworms I think.
Jeff: We digress. So, excellent couple of guys. I look forward to hearing from him in the coming months.
Kim: Yes, I do too. Again, thanks guys for being here with us and telling us about this product.
Jeff: Look forward to having you back. Well, that about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple podcasts, wherever you download and stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker, even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like.
You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any web page. As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for their continued support for the Beekeeping Today Podcast. We want to thank our regular episode sponsor Global Patties, check them out at www.global.patties.com. We also want to thank Strong Microbials for their support of the podcast. Check out their full probiotic line at www.strongmicrobials.com.
We also want to thank Betterbee for joining us as our latest supporter. Check out all of their great beekeeping supplies at www.betterbee.com. Finally, and really most importantly, we want to thank you. The Beekeeping Today Podcast listener for joining us on the show. Feel free to send us questions and comments to questions at beekeepingtoday.podcast.com. We'd love to hear from you. Anything else, Jim?
Kim: No. Next time, we'll have a couple of books reviews for you, though, Jeff. I've been doing a lot of reading this summer. It's been too hot to work outside, so I'm enjoying the time inside.
Jeff: Well, I'm looking forward to it, Kim. Thanks a lot. Take care.
Kim: You too.
[00:50:58] [END OF AUDIO]
CEO - Beemmunity
Former researcher from Cornell University. Now founded the start-up 'Beemmunity' to bring their founded pesticide detoxification technology to market.
Lifelong beekeeper who attended University of Maryland College Park and was introduced to commercial and research driven beekeeping through the entomology lab. Having spent the last 5 years as a commercial and migratory beekeeper Nathan jumped at the opportunity to join Beemmunity and lend his knowledge of apiculture.
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