Who’s Up for Some Killer Bee Beer?

Who’s Up for Some Killer Bee Beer?

If you’re looking for booze with an extra bit of buzz, you’re in luck. Microbiologists in the U.K. have just created beer using yeast sourced from the guts of Africanized honey bees, a.k.a. killer bees.

The bee beer was brewed by researchers from Cardiff University. They were visiting Namibia, located in southwest Africa, as a part of a research project when they became interested in the country’s killer bees. On a whim, they decided to collect samples of Saccharomyces cerevisiae—a fungal species that has long been used to help produce beer, wine, and baked goods—from the gut microbiome of killer bees that had died naturally. The fungus is more commonly known as brewer’s yeast.

“When we got back to Cardiff, we used the isolated killer bee brewers yeast, along with yeast from Welsh honey bees, to make several batches of beer,” said Les Baillie, a professor of microbiology at Cardiff, in a statement from the university.

Killer bees are a hybrid of various subspecies of the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) in Europe and East African lowland honey bees (itself another subspecies, A. m. scutellata). Their nickname comes from their much more territorial and aggressive nature relative to other bee species. Killer bees are much more likely to perceive people and animals as threats to defend against and will even chase such threats down for longer distances than other species. Though they’re not as dangerous as initial media reports made them out to be, killer bees are thought to have killed at least 1,000 people since their arrival to the Americas in the 1950s.

The Cardiff team’s brew is a spinoff of their larger Pharmabees project, which is trying to explore whether the pollination of certain plants can lead to the development of drugs able to target antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs. As part of that project, researchers have transported and placed hives around the university—hives that they hope can yield super-honey with novel antibacterial properties.

The buzzy beer isn’t specifically part of that goal, but the team is now looking for a brew partner that can help them bring it to the market. From there, any proceeds would go toward funding their bee-related research.

“Our research into bees is uncovering how honey, beeswax and other bee biproducts can play a role in solving some of the world’s biggest challenges–including tackling antibiotic resistance and superbugs,” said Bailie.

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