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From guaranteed death to guaranteed survival. That was the difference when researchers at Cornell University in the USA gave bees a kind of vaccine against pesticides, reports Fast Company.
The vaccine consists of microparticles filled with an enzyme that breaks down the poison in the bee's stomach. The pesticide thus never gets into the rest of the bee's body, where the toxin can cause great damage. One of the researchers behind the vaccine has now started a company, Beemunity, which will start selling the product to beekeepers at the beginning of next year.
But the researchers are clear in pointing out that they see the vaccine as a temporary emergency solution. What they really want to see is reduced use of pesticides. However, it will probably take a while and while waiting for that, the researchers hope that the vaccine will save many bees.
"I think this is hopefully something that can help people understand that if we remove pesticides from the equation, the animals will do very well. Of course, we can not give this to all animals and help them in this way. So this is a way to control the harmful effects rather than a long-term solution" says James Webb, one of the researchers who developed the vaccine, in a comment to Fast Company.
One problem with the vaccine is that it only helps against a single type of pesticide. As the bees in a normal hive are infected with an average of six different pesticides, it is not far enough. The researchers are therefore also developing a variant that will work against all types of pesticides.