Original article


, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 451-463

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Effects of host age on susceptibility to infection and immune gene expression in honey bee queens (Apis mellifera) inoculated with Nosema ceranae

  • Veeranan ChaimaneeAffiliated withSection of Biotechnology, Maejo University Phrae Campus
  • , Panuwan ChantawannakulAffiliated withBee Protection Center, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai UniversityMaterials Science Research Center, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University
  • , Yanping ChenAffiliated withUSDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory
  • , Jay D. EvansAffiliated withUSDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory
  • , Jeffery S. PettisAffiliated withUSDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory Email author 


Nosema ceranae is a microsporidium parasite infecting honey bees worldwide. All colony members including workers, drones, and queens can become infected. In this study, we inoculated queens of age 1, 6, and 12 days post-adult emergence, with N. ceranae spores of different doses and allowed them to age an additional 12 days. The results indicated that younger queens were indeed more susceptible to N. ceranae inoculation than older queens. Moreover, this is the first report of the effects of N. ceranae inoculation on immune gene expression in queens of different ages. Our results demonstrated that the expression of genes related to the bee immunity apidaecin, eater, and vitellogenin in the gut and the remaining abdomen was different among queens of different ages when inoculated with N. ceranae. All three ages of queens inoculated by N. ceranae showed upregulation of apidaecin in gut tissue 6 days after inoculation, but only in queens aged 1 day post-emergence were the differences significant. However, transcript levels of eater were increased in all three ages of queens when sampled on day 12, and significant differences were obtained in queens inoculated at 6 and 12 days post-emergence. We clearly show that immune responses to N. ceranae changes as queen age and this knowledge may provide clues for understanding the ability of queens to resist infection by this gut parasite.


Nosema ceranae honey bee queen Apis mellifera supersedure immunity