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Goals & Objectives: Goal 1
Objective 1.1

Objective 1.1 – Characterize individual bee morbidity and mortality caused by Nosema species in cage studies

(Webster, Aronstein, Huang, Solter)

General rationale and significance
Based on the surprising prevalence of Nosema in both control and CCD colonies revealed by Cox-Foster et al. (2007) it is clear there is need to determine the pathogenicity of different species and biotypes of Nosema, how they interact with virus and other diseases, and to identify sources of resistance in honey bee populations. Nosema spp. are Microsporidia that infect at least 12 orders of insects. Nosema apis has been known to cause morbidity in Apis mellifera for a century (Bailey and Ball 1991). N. ceranae was found infecting Apis cerana, the Asian honey bee (Fries et al. 1996), but until the last decade it was not found in A. mellifera. N. ceranae has been present in the U.S. for at least a decade (Chen et al. 2007), but studies on its pathogenicity in the U.S. have been neglected. Reports from Australia (Dennis Anderson pers. comm., Spivak) and Spain (Higes et al. 2007, 2009) attribute recent colony collapses in those countries to N. ceranae. Therefore, it is critical to begin comprehensive studies of this pathogen in the U.S.

Summary Statement for Goal 1
This goal constitutes our attempts at understanding the most important morbidity factors at work in North American Apis mellifera. Work in this Goal is characterized by a high degree of interinstitutional linkages within CAP labs, resulting in four topical groups. The Nosema group is comprised of Lee Solter (Univ IL), Tom Webster (KY State Univ), Zach Huang (MI State), Christina Grozinger (Penn State), and Kate Aronstein (ARS Weslaco). The virus group is made up of Jay Evans and Judy Chen (ARS Beltsville) and Lee Solter. There have been cross-group linkages with Greg Hunt (Purdue) who is studying the genetic basis of bee resistance to N. ceranae and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV). A diagnostics group is comprised of Jay Evans, Judy Chen, and Kate Aronstein. The toxicology group is comprised of Marion Ellis (Univ NB), Maryann Frazier, Jim Frazier, and Chris Mullin (Penn State). A sentinel apiary monitoring group, led by Frank Drummond (Univ. of Maine), is comprised of Nancy Ostiguy (Penn State), Marla Spivak (Univ. of Minn.), Kate Aronstein (ARS Weslaco), Sheppard (Univ. of Wash.), Kirk Visscher (Univ. of CA - Riverside); analytic work by Anne Averill (Univ. of Mass.), Nancy Ostiguy (Penn State), and Brian Eitzer (CT Experiment Station) is collecting baseline data on field colonies and factors contributing to bee morbidity. And finally, an IPM adoption group is headed up by Keith Delaplane (Univ GA).


1.1 Sub-objectives Collaborators Timetable for Deliverables

Objectives 1.1A & 1.1E (consolidated)
Comparative virulence of N. apis and N. ceranae in caged bees (1.1A); Determine whether there is competitive replacement of N. apis by N. ceranae (1.1E)

Webster, Aronstein, Huang

14 July 2010

Objective 1.1B
Comparative pathology of N. apis and N. ceranae in caged bees

Huang, Solter 14 July 2010

Objective 1.1C
Investigate transcriptional responses to infection utilizing microarrays analysis followed by the qRT-PCR

Webster, Aronstein, Grozinger 14 July 2011

Objective 1.1D
Characterize pathogenicity and effects of N. ceranae on honey bee workers in colonies

Huang, Webster, Aronstein 14 July 2012
Objective 1.1F
Determine whether there is an interaction between nutritional status and Nosema disease
Huang 14 July 2010

Expected outcomes
In cage studies, to

  1. determine time to death for bees infected with N. apis and N. ceranae,
  2. determine a provisional threshold for individual bee morbidity and mortality,
  3. identify differences in N. ceranae virulence by geographic regions,
  4. identify honey bee strains resistant to N. apis or N. ceranae, and
  5. determine the role of viral and abiotic challenges in the virulence of N. apis and N. ceranae.


Methodology, data and analysis of results to date are shared in an annual report to USDA. Papers generated by team members during the time of the CAP are listed and periodically updated below. Beyond the citation of published papers, the consensus of the group is that it would otherwise be unhelpful or possibly misleading to state preliminary results within the context on this web site.


Publications of objective 1.1 principal investigators (Aronstein, Huang, Solter and Webster) to date during the CAP

Aronstein, K.A. 2009. Detect Nosema Parasite in Time to Save Bee Colonies. Am. Bee J.150 (1): 63-65

Aronstein, K.A., Eduardo Saldivar, T.C. Webster. 2011. Evaluation of Nosema ceranae Spore-specific polyclonal antibodies. Journal of Apicultural Research 50(2): 145-151

Aronstein, K. A., B. Oppert, and M.D. Lorenzen. (ed. Paula Grabowski) 2011. Book: “RNA Processing,” Chapter “RNAi in the Agriculturally Important Arthropods.” ISBN 978-953-307-332-3, InTech.

Aronstein K.A, and J. Adamczyk. 2011. Influence of Genomics: The Post Genomic Era in the Honey Bee Research. The Journal of the Texas Beekeepers Association. 11(1): 12-17

Aronstein, K.A., H.E. Cabanillas. (ed. Samataro) Book: ”Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable solutions” Book chapter 11: Chalkbrood Re-examined . Taylor and Francis, LLC, (accepted, 2011)

Chen, Y.P. and Z.Y. Huang. 2010. Nosema ceranae, a newly identified pathogen of Apis mellifera in the U.S. and Asia. Apidologie 41: 364-374, DOI: 10.1051/apido/2010021

Huang, Z.Y. 2010. Honey bee nutrition. American Bee Journal 150, 773-776. Also published in Bee Culture 138:(9) 22-26

Solter, L.F. and Huang, W-F. 2010. Sweeter than honey: Honey bee health. Illinois Natural History Survey Reports, Summer Issue No. 404, 2

Webster, T.C. 2010. Nosema ceranae -- the inside story. American Bee Journal. 150(4):367-370

Further Background Information
Documentation of CAP progress in general, and of this objective in particular, is available through the following sources:

  1. Bee Health, an eXention initiative for peer-reviewed scientific recommendations
  2. Colony Collapse Disorder Progress Report for 2009
  3. Microsporidia: Friend, Foe (and Intriguing Creatures)
  4. Honey Bee Nutrition
  5. Breeding Bees for Resistance to Parasites and Diseases
  6. Nosema ceranae – The Inside Story
  7. Honey Bee “Medical Records”: The Stationary Apiary Monitoring Project
  8. Detect Nosema Parasite in Time to Save Bee Colonies

Updated July 22, 2011.