The microsporidian parasites Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis are widespread in honeybee (Apis mellifera) colonies across Scotland
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Nosema ceranae is spreading into areas where Nosema apis already exists. N. ceranae has been reported to cause an asymptomatic infection that may lead, ultimately, to colony collapse. It is thought that there may be a temperature barrier to its infiltration into countries in colder climates. In this study, 71 colonies from Scottish Beekeeper’s Association members have been screened for the presence of N. apis and N. ceranae across Scotland. We find that only 11 of the 71 colonies tested positive for spores by microscopy. However, 70.4 % of colonies screened by PCR revealed the presence of both N. ceranae and N. apis, with only 4.2 or 7 % having either strain alone and 18.3 % being Nosema free. A range of geographically separated colonies testing positive for N. ceranae were sequenced to confirm their identity. All nine sequences confirmed the presence of N. ceranae and indicated the presence of a single new variant. Furthermore, two of the spore-containing colonies had only N. ceranae present, and these exhibited the presence of smaller spores that could be distinguished from N. apis by the analysis of average spore size. Differential quantification of the PCR product revealed N. ceranae to be the dominant species in all seven samples tested. In conclusion, N. ceranae is widespread in Scotland where it exists in combination with the endemic N. apis. A single variant, identical to that found in France (DQ374655) except for the addition of a single nucleotide polymorphism, is present in Scotland.
KeywordsVarroa Destructor Insect Pollinator Fumagillin Honey Production Small Spore
We thank the Scottish Beekeeper’s Association for their support in obtaining all the samples from their members across Scotland and the individual beekeepers participating, including Phil McAnespie, John Coyle, Alan Riach, Jim Ferguson, Helga Irvine, Ann Chilcott, Eric McArthur, and Mike Thornley. We also thank Bethany and Elaine Burch for technical assistance with the preparation of the samples. This study was supported by The Insect Pollinator Initiative (funded under the auspices of the Living with Environmental Change programme, by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Scottish Government, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Natural Environment Research Council (Ref. nos. BB/I00031/1 to CNC, BB/I000143/1 to GR and BB/I000178/1 to NR).
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