Fungus Creations

Air Date: 07/23/2021

Katy Ayers made a canoe — out of mushrooms. More specifically, she used mycelium, the unseen, vegetative body of a fungus that forms mushrooms. (Fun fact: Mushrooms are the reproductive organs of some fungi.) Ayers is part of what some call a “fungal revolution.” Around the world, people are using mycelium to create a wide range of items like lampshades, flowerpots, and keychains. And because mycelium is naturally occurring, easily reusable, and biodegradable, some scientists are using it to create materials that can replace plastic or leather — helping reduce the effect that these widely used substances can have on the environment. There are also applications in health care, where gauze-like mycelium materials can help internal wounds heal. The fluids in mycelium structures can kill viruses that are having a negative effect on bee populations, researchers believe. That led Ayers, a recent graduate of Central Community College in Nebraska, to create mycelium “hotels” for bees to live and lay eggs in as part of grant-funded research. After it rains, bees can drink the exudates (or juices) from the mycelium, helping them fight off viruses decimating their communities. Ayers is installing these bee hotels throughout Nebraska to study how and how often they are used. She and other scientists see endless potential for mycelium products. “The possibilities are really whatever you can imagine,” Ayers told Nebraska Public Media. What things would you like to see made out mycelium? What applications could you see this technology used for in the future?