Pharmacophagy and pharmacophory: mechanisms of self-medication and disease prevention in the honeybee colony (Apis mellifera)
Apitherapy promises cures for diseases in human folk medicine, but the effects of honeybee produced and foraged compounds on bee health are less known. Yet, hive products should chiefly facilitate medication and sanitation of the honeybees themselves rather than other organisms.We here review the impact of both self-produced gland secretions and foraged hive products (pharmacognosy) on colony health. Although foraged plant-derived compounds vary highly in antibiotic activity depending on the floral and regional origins, secondary plant metabolites in honey, pollen and propolis are important for the antibiotic activity against pathogens and parasites. However, specific bee health-enhancing activities of bee products should clearly be distinguished from the effects of an intact nutrition ensuring the basic immune competence of bees. Further unravelling the interactions among groups of active substances or individual compounds used in concert with specific behavioural adaptations will deepen our understanding of the natural potential of honeybees to maintain colony health.
Erler S, Moritz RFA (2015) Pharmacophagy and pharmacophory: mechanisms of self-medication and disease prevention in the honeybee colony (Apis mellifera). Apidologie, (online first). DOI: 10.1007/s13592-015-0400-z