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Parasites Are Wiping Out Entire Honeybee Colonies. Threat Magnitude Much Higher Than Previously Expected

Bees around the world are at risk from a number of threats including habitat loss and the effect of pesticides, plus bacterial disease like American foulbrood. Bee colonies are also at risk from mites (especially Varroa mite parasite) and parasites. Although parasites have long been associated with “colony collapse disorder”, where entire hives are wiped out, it is only recently that the magnitude of the threat has been fully realised.
Nosema Ceranae parasite

Nosema Ceranae parasite is killing the bees

The parasite concerned is a microsporidian called Nosema ceranae, which can harm adult bees and their larvae. It causes adult bees to die early, and kills the larvae before they can transform into bees. It is spread easily via airborne spores.

The parasite poses a particular threat to honeybees found in Europe and across Asia. What is new, based on earlier investigations, is the risk to larvae. Most research had only detected infections occurring with adult bees.

The enhanced risks were found from studies conducted in a laboratory, where bees were kept and various risk scenarios involving the spread of the parasite were tried out. Under certain conditions, the scientists showed, entire colonies can be wiped out through parasitic infection.

Researchers have also found that infection is not easy to treat. Adult bees can be sprayed with the chemical fumagillin; however, when the effects wear off the infection can re-emerge.

Bees are of a great ecological importance (many agricultural crops worldwide are pollinated by honeybees), so researching why bees are in decline worldwide is of importance. The research into the parasitic risks is continuing.

The research was carried out at UC San Diego. The findings have been published in the journal PLOS One, in a paper titled “Nosema ceranae Can Infect Honey Bee Larvae and Reduces Subsequent Adult Longevity.”

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.

  • CellPro

    In other news: “Scientific” article’s reputation diminished by basic Internet mistake of using “then” instead of “than” in title…

    • TheLatestNews

      Then is mainly an adverb, often used to situate actions in time. Source: http://grammarist.com/usage/than-then/ Here is an action in time, so then is correct.

      • Taylor Chase

        You’re reading that wrong. “Previously” is the adverb describing “expected.”

        The way the title is worded, it is saying that “is much higher” is one action and “previously expected” is a separate action; where no comparison is being made, but a passage of time between the two actions is occurring.

        “Than” is the correct form.

        • TheLatestNews

          We have updated the title. Thank you!

        • Victor Grayson

          It doesn’t matter

  • An undergrad student

    Sir, please correct the multitude of grammar and spelling mistakes within your article. Furthermore provide better sources, as in peer reviewed journal articles. Metaphormasise is not a word.

    • TheLatestNews

      Looks like we missed that one, mistake corrected. Thank you!

    • Victor Grayson

      Metaphormasise is a word!

  • kyle middleton

    I thought it was a great article.I never realized this was an English class people?

    • TheLatestNews

      Glad you liked it Kyle, thanks!

      • Gian Torres

        Very important subject, thank you!

    • Taylor Chase

      If you are going to publish an article, the language should be correct; especially if it’s the news. Correct spelling and grammar is an important element in relaying information correctly.

  • MoonSnack

    Unfortunately, this isn’t conclusive as far as what is truly killing off the honey bee population across the world. We’ll need some more investigative study to determine what the honey bee’s true killer is.

    Perhaps it’s this parasite, or maybe it’s the pesticides sprayed by farmers. As far as I know, those are the two biggest culprits.

  • Jack Jackson

    Any known Nosema ceranae-resistant colonies? Presumably one (or more) will emerge…Darwinism would predict it, yes? OR have we tampered with the species so much that the normal natural selection mechanism is broken?

  • ranjas

    here in portugal i used to see a looooooot of them , i was allways jumping.. now its rare.. so weird… and when i see one , its on the ground , moving slowly and not flying even when i poke .. ( bad english )

  • Victor Grayson

    This is a fascinating article

  • Belinda Shaw

    Some beekeepers in South Africa use Halls Menthol sweets in the hives – kills off Tracheal mites and the bees love it. Maybe it will kill off this one?? Here’s an article: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/beekeepers/factsheets/honey_bee_tracheal_mite.html