NOSEMA CERANAE IN WESTERN HONEY BEES (APIS MELLIFERA): BIOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT
Williams, Geoffrey Rhys
MetadataShow full item record
Western honey bees (Apis mellifera; hereafter honey bees) provide vital pollination services to global agriculture and biodiversity. However in recent years they have experienced severe population declines in many regions of the northern hemisphere. Although causes of these honey bee declines are not well understood, multiple pressures such as changes in land-use and climate, management issues, and introduced parasites are believed to be responsible. First described in honey bees in 2006 during a period of high colony mortalities, the microsporidian gut parasite Nosema ceranae became of great concern. In this dissertation I investigated the distribution, management, virulence, and inter-specific interactions of this introduced species. First, I described and clarified the multiple pressures believed to influence honey bee health, including N. ceranae, especially in relation to the mysterious phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder. I then surveyed colonies in Maritime Canada for N. ceranae and the historic honey bee microsporidian Nosema apis. Although both species were present at a regional scale, intensive sampling in Nova Scotia revealed that N. ceranae was highly prevalent compared to the historic congener. Next, I investigated two potential management options for the parasite. Chemotherapy using the fungicide fumagillin reduced N. ceranae spore intensity but had no effect on colony survival, and indoor over-wintering did not reduce spore intensity but was associated with increased colony survivorship in spring. Using a comparative approach, I observed that N. ceranae infection significantly reduced honey bee longevity in the laboratory but did not influence overall colony health or strength in the field. Last, a laboratory study demonstrated reduced spore production during N. ceranae and N. apis co-infection, possibly due to inter-specific competition that has resulted in the displacement of the historic Nosema species by N. ceranae in many global regions. This dissertation provides crucial information on biology and management of N. ceranae that can be used towards the development of an integrated pest management strategy, and for future studies investigating factors that may influence the parasite’s distribution, virulence, and inter-specific interactions.