Determining the prevalence of the fungal parasite, Nosema, in the European honey bee in managed and feral hives
Mentor:Joan M. Leong, Professor of Biology, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Approximately one-third of all commercially consumed agricultural crops need honey bee pollination in order to produce crops. Due to the heavy reliance on honey bee pollination in agriculture, honey bee health is a priority. Managed honey bees undergo additional stresses when comparing honey bees found in a feral, or naturally occurring setting. These factors include being shipped and living in honey bee boxes, varying weather conditions such as extreme heat in field and travel settings, and increased exposure to pesticides or insecticides. Because of these additional stresses, honey bees in managed setting are thought to differ in the prevalence of Nosema, a fungal parasite and recent concern in honey bee health. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the prevalence of Nosema between treatments of managed and feral hives. Approximately 16-40 honey bees were collected by sweep net from three managed hives and two feral hives found in Southern California beginning in the Winter 2012 to Summer 2013. Feral honey bees were collected from hives found in natural settings, which foraged near the feral hive on flowering plants. Managed honey bees were collected from agricultural field sites, which had honey bee boxes, as the bees foraged on the crops or near the boxes. Once collected, midguts of the honey bees were examined under a microscope after staining with Giemsa stain for the Nosema fungus. Preliminary results show a 3.8% prevalence in honey bees found in one of the managed hives and 10% in one feral hive and 0% in a second feral hive. Thus, prevalence of Nosema varies among the levels of infection found in honey bee hives from both a managed and feral setting. Additional data are needed to determine whether management of honey bee causes a difference in the prevalence of Nosema.