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Detection of Microsporidia in Pollinator Communities of a Mediterranean Biodiversity Hotspot for Wild Bees


Insect pollination is crucial for the maintenance of natural and managed ecosystems but the functioning of this ecosystem service is threatened by a worldwide decline of pollinators. Key factors in this situation include the spread and interspecific transmission of pathogens worldwide through the movement of managed pollinators. Research on this field has been mainly conducted in some particular species, while studies assessing the interspecific transmission of pathogens at a community level are scarce. However, this information is pivotal to design strategies to protect pollinators. Herein, we analysed the prevalence of two common microsporidia pathogens of managed honey bees (Nosema ceranae and N. apis) in bee communities of semiarid Mediterranean areas from the Southeast of the Iberian Peninsula. Our results confirm the ability of N. ceranae to disperse across wild bee communities in semiarid Mediterranean ecosystems since it was detected in 36 Apoidea species (39% of the sampling; for the first time in nine genera). The prevalence of the pathogen did not show any phylogenetic signal which suggests a superfamily host range of the pathogen or that wild bees may be acting only as vectors of N. ceranae. In addition, N. apis was detected in an Eucera species, which is the second time it has been detected by molecular techniques in a host other than the honey bee. Our study represents the primary assessment of the prevalence of microsporidia at community level in Mediterranean areas and provides outstanding results on the ability of Nosema pathogens to spread across the landscape.

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Fig. 1

Data Availability

Data on collected samples (including GenBank accession numbers) can be found in Supplementary data.


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We are grateful to Diego Cejas, Andrés García, Julia Rodríguez and Ana Asensio for helping us during the field work. We also would like to acknowledge Ana Asensio for her support in the lab work.


This research received funds provided by the Spanish Association of Terrestrial Ecology to VML (AEET; projects leaded by young researchers, 2016 call). VML was supported by a predoctoral FPU studentship by Spanish Ministry of Education (FPU13/05115) and is currently funded by a postdoctoral fellowship (21260/PD/19) from Fundación Séneca, Región de Murcia (Spain). PDlR is supported by Project 19908/GERM/2015 of Regional Excellence (Fundación Seneca). IM is supported by a MINECO Spanish postdoctoral grant “Juan de la Cierva‐ Incorporación” (JCI2018-036614-I).

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Authors and Affiliations



VML, CR and PDlR conceived and designed the study. Sampling was done by VML, CR, IM and PDlR. Samples were taxonomically identified by CO. Lab work was performed by VML supported by IM. Pathogens detection was carried out by VML supported by MH and RMH. Data were analysed by VML and CR. First draft of the manuscript was written by VML and all authors contributed critically and gave final approval for publication.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Vicente Martínez-López.

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Ethics Approval

No approval of research ethics committees was required to accomplish the goals of this study because experimental work was conducted with an unregulated invertebrate species. We obtained sampling permission from the Murcia regional government authorities.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Supplementary Information

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Supplementary file1 (XLSX 75.6 KB)

Supplementary file2 (DOCX 216 KB)

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Martínez-López, V., Ruiz, C., Muñoz, I. et al. Detection of Microsporidia in Pollinator Communities of a Mediterranean Biodiversity Hotspot for Wild Bees. Microb Ecol (2021).

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  • Wild bee communities
  • Microsporidia
  • Nosema ceranae
  • Nosema apis
  • Interspecific pathogen transmission
  • Phylogenetic signal