The story of this carnivorous vulture bee

Image copyright IFL Science Image caption The bees digest their kills by adding fluids from their beaks to their gut bacteria

Scientists have discovered a new antibiotic-producing bacteria evolved by a carnivorous vulture bee.

The study says the insects can kill enough plant matter to put an insecticide into the mud in which they feed.

The bacteria becomes active when the bees eat meat.

The scientists said the insects – otherwise known as cichlid vultures – eat everything from decaying wood to crops.

They have been steadily gaining popularity as a species to study as they have only been recorded in Europe for the past 300 years.

John Brady, from the University of Bristol, said: “We knew that cichlid vultures are incredibly prolific eaters. But we were amazed when we found that they digest plant food that could have important antibiotic properties.”

How we live is constantly changing as we shift from grasslands to more intensive agriculture and burn ever-increasing amounts of fossil fuels.

But scientists believe it has been a matter of time before these new discoveries start being applied to farming practices and land management.

The study – by the Universities of Bristol and Oxford – found cichlid vultures had developed a gut bacteria that was more potent than most common antibiotics.

It then discovered the bees can be specially bred for using these highly effective microbes to create high levels of antibiotics.

Image copyright PA Image caption Cichlid vultures feed on life

The bacteria could also potentially be used to create low levels of antibiotics needed to combat chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma – which are linked to a diet rich in meat.

Rasana Papic, a professor of microbes at the University of Bristol, said the bacteria could even be placed onto clothing or food.

She said: “Sustainability is the main reason why we’re actually doing this project.

“It could also have a direct impact on the way people consume meat – you could bring back crops which have died off and then you could use these antibiotics to make meat safer.”

The study was published in the journal IFL Science.

In the UK there are about 40 vultures in the wild and the species is protected on Queen’s Island off the coast of England.

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