Belfast Telegraph

Queen's University Belfast professor creates a buzz with research into bee-killing bug

By Linda Stewart

A virulent bee parasite that has conquered the globe in a handful of years could be speeded up by climate change, scientists at Queen's University Belfast have discovered.

The parasite nosema ceranae is likely to cause increasing damage to bee populations in the UK as the Earth heats up through climate change.

The gut parasite outcompetes a native fungus that was already present in western honey-bees and its numbers could rise with global warning, according to Professor Robert Paxton, co-author of the study that has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"This emerging parasite is more susceptible to cold than its original close relative, possibly reflecting its presumed origin in east Asia.

"In the face of rising global temperatures, our findings suggest that it will increase in prevalence and potentially lead to increased honey-bee colony losses in Britain," he said.

The gut parasite was first identified in 1994 and then turned up in Spain 10 years later.

It has now spread to Australia, America, Europe and Asia and has been found in hives in Northern Ireland.

"It lives inside cells in animals and it gives them diarrhoea and destroys the gut lining," Professor Paxton said.

"In Spain, this thing has been said to kill colonies in just 18 months."

The research compared pathogen growth in honey-bees that were infected with both the exotic parasite, nosema ceranae and its original native relative, nosema apis.

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The research compared pathogen growth in honey-bees infected with both the exotic parasite, nosema ceranae, and its original native relative, nosema apis.

While both parasites inhibit each other's growth, the exotic nosema ceranae outcompetes the native nosema apis. Nosema ceranae is common in southern Europe but rare in northern Europe.

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