Older bees pass on immunity-boosting molecules to younger bees in their hives via the royal jelly they share.
The bees can make them resistant to diseases in this jelly which larvae feed on, to give the hive a collective immune system.
It means that the honeybees nourish the young, essentially meaning that the hive has a ‘shared stomach’ for protection.
The team examined the natural RNAs found in the jellies used to feed larvae and found RNAs corresponding to ten viruses.
This suggests that bees start making and sharing disease-targeting RNAs when infections strike, protecting the whole hive from an outbreak.
The discovery was made when researchers from Cambridge University who wanted to test a new way of treating diseases in bees.