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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Managing Diseases and Pests of Honey Bees to Improve Queen and Colony Health

Location: Bee Research

Title: The prevalence of parasites and pathogens in Asian honeybees, Apis cerana, in China

Authors
item Li, Jillian -
item Qin, Haoran -
item Wu, Jie -
item Sadd, Ben -
item Wang, Xiuhong -
item Evans, Jay
item Peng, Wenjun -
item Chen, Yanping

Submitted to: PLoS One
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 18, 2012
Publication Date: November 7, 2012
Citation: Li, J., Qin, H., Wu, J., Sadd, B.M., Wang, X., Evans, J.D., Peng, W., Chen, Y. 2012. The prevalence of parasites and pathogens in Asian honeybees, Apis cerana, in China. PLoS One. 7(11):e47955.

Interpretive Summary: A growing body of evidence has implicated parasites and pathogens as the major causes of worldwide decline in honey bee populations. The study of the pathogen/parasite prevalence in different host species can provide important insight into the dynamics of host-pathogen interactions for designing pathogen/parasite control strategies. Using molecular approaches, a nationwide survey was conducted to investigate the distribution and prevalence of parasites/pathogens linked to European honey bee colony collapse in Asian honey bees in China. The results of this nationwide screen show that parasites and pathogens that have caused serious problems in European honeybees can be found in native honeybee species kept in Asia. The presence of these parasites and pathogens may have considerable implications for an observed population decline of Asian honeybees. The findings from this study showcase the need for increased surveillance for pathogens/parasites as an integrated part of bee health management programs.

Technical Abstract: Pathogens and parasites threaten the health and well-being of honeybees, key pollinators of agricultural crops and flowers worldwide. We conducted a nationwide survey to determine the occurrence and prevalence of pathogens and parasites in Chinese populations of the Asian honeybee species, Apis cerana. Our study provides evidence of infections of A. cerana by pathogenic Deformed wing virus (DWV), Black queen cell virus (BQCV), Nosema ceranae, and a species of Crithidia. The two viral species and Nosema ceranae have been linked to population declines of European honeybees, A. mellifera, and bumble bees. However, the prevalence of DWV, a virus that causes widespread infection in A. mellifera, was low, arguably a result of the greater ability of A. cerana to resist the ectoprasitic mite Varroa destructor, an efficient vector of DWV. Analyses of microbial communities from the A. cerana digestive tract showed that Nosema infection could have detrimental effects on the gut microbiota. Workers infected by N. ceranae tended to have lower bacterial quantities, with these differences being significant for the Bifidobacterium and Pasteurellaceae bacteria. The results of this nationwide screen show that parasites and pathogens that have caused serious problems in European honeybees can be found in native honeybee species kept in Asia. Environmental changes due to new agricultural practices and globalization may facilitate the spread of pathogens into new geographic areas. The foraging behavior of pollinators that are in close geographic proximity likely have played an important role in spreading of parasites and pathogens over to new hosts. Phylogenetic analyses provide insights into the movement and population structure of these parasites, suggesting a bidirectional flow of parasites among pollinators. The presence of these parasites and pathogens may have considerable implications for an observed population decline of Asian honeybees.

Last Modified: 7/31/2014
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