During the current pandemic, people have learned which methods help in blocking and preventing the transmission of respiratory disease. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a list of preventative steps to be taken to improve the odds of keeping such diseases from spreading, or at least slowing down transmission.

We have all grown familiar with these hygiene practices in 2020 and 2021; washing, wiping, cleaning, disinfecting as well as keeping distance from others, staying at home more, especially when sick, and refraining from touching common surfaces that might be contaminated. And much more.

You may be surprised to know that many of these practices are not just applied by humans. Several animal species also take preventative measures to protect their communities from disease. Throughout history humans have learned many things by observing animals. 

Bees are disease prevention experts. They are highly skilled at knowing how to adapt and change to deal with threatening circumstances. They change their behavior when it serves the good of the hive. They also know how to use disease preventing substances.

Much of what bees do is like what people have been doing to reduce the spread of viruses linked to the flu and COVID-19.

Bees protect their home, the hive, with antibacterial materials. They use the sticky glue-like substance called propolis, which has antimicrobial properties, to seal up any cracks and holes in the hive. As reported in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, propolis is a substance that the bees create themselves.

This 7:49-minute video by Inside The Hive TV examines the concept of a transmissible RNA pathway in honey bees:



According to a report published in Science Direct, there is a transmissible RNA pathway in honey bees. Another way that bees build the social immunity of the hive and help to prevent viral transmission is to share RNA with other hive members. This is similar to when humans get vaccinated or inoculated against such things as smallpox. In the hive, antibodies are built up by the hive members sharing small amounts of RNA with other bees.

The RNA molecules can be passed through the royal jelly and worker jelly in the honeycomb to the larvae, which eat the jelly, increasing the chances that the baby bees won’t contract the virus.

Hives operate on the premise of ‘the greatest good of all’ so some of the following information may seem harsh, but it is a natural part of hive life. Despite all the ways described above that bees try to keep all bees safe from viral transmission, some bees do get infected. When a bee gets ill, she is isolated by her sisters. Either she will leave the hive to spare the other bees from getting sick, a behavioral act known as ‘altruistic self-removal,’ or her sisters will carry her to the edge of the hive and throw her over the side to the ground below. This almost always kills her instantly. If a bee dies in the hive, her body is also removed and thrown over the edge by mortuary bees, so the hive won’t be contaminated.

In the animal world it is very much about survival of the fittest and protecting the whole at the expense of the few.