Original Paper

Parasitology Research

, Volume 109, Issue 3, pp 605-612

First online:

Comparison of the energetic stress associated with experimental Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis infection of honeybees (Apis mellifera)

  • Raquel Martín-HernándezAffiliated withBee Pathology Laboratory, Centro Apícola Regional, JCCM
  • , Cristina BotíasAffiliated withBee Pathology Laboratory, Centro Apícola Regional, JCCM
  • , Laura BarriosAffiliated withStatistics Department, CTI, Consejo Superior Investigaciones Científicas
  • , Amparo Martínez-SalvadorAffiliated withEpidemiology Department, TRAGSEGA
  • , Aránzazu MeanaAffiliated withAnimal Health Department, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad Complutense de Madrid
  • , Christopher MayackAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Colorado State University
  • , Mariano HigesAffiliated withBee Pathology Laboratory, Centro Apícola Regional, JCCM Email author 

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Nosema ceranae is a relatively new and widespread parasite of the western honeybee Apis mellifera that provokes a new form of nosemosis. In comparison to Nosema apis, which has been infecting the honeybee for much longer, N. ceranae seems to have co-evolved less with this host, causing a more virulent disease. Given that N. apis and N. ceranae are obligate intracellular microsporidian parasites, needing host energy to reproduce, energetic stress may be an important factor contributing to the increased virulence observed. Through feeding experiments on caged bees, we show that both mortality and sugar syrup consumption were higher in N. ceranae-infected bees than in N. apis-infected and control bees. The mortality and sugar syrup consumption are also higher in N. apis-infected bees than in controls, but are less than in N. ceranae-infected bees. With both microsporidia, mortality and sugar syrup consumption increased in function of the increasing spore counts administered for infection. The differences in energetic requirements between both Nosema spp. confirm that their metabolic patterns are not the same, which may depend critically on host–parasite interactions and, ultimately, on host pathology. The repercussions of this increased energetic stress may even explain the changes in host behavior due to starvation, lack of thermoregulatory capacity, or higher rates of trophallaxis, which might enhance transmission and bee death.