A fungal pathogen has been infecting bees around the world for at least two decades. And scientists are calling it a pandemic.
The unicellular pathogen Nosema causes the most common and widespread disease in adult honey bees. It has been exclusively documented in European honeybee, though it is also found in bees across Europe, Canada and Kenya.
The different strains of Nosema — Nosema apis, Nosema ceranae, Nosema bombi — are the most common strains to cause infections in bees. Nosema ceranae causes year-round infections in hives; so far, only Nosema bombi, which infects bumblebees, has been documented in Colorado.
While N apis was the only known unicellular honey bee pathogen until 1996, when the second species, N ceranae, was identified from the Asian honey bee.
The strains could contribute to colony collapse, a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a honey bee colony disappear, leaving behind a queen, food, and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees.
The pandemic has ecologists worried over the fate of not only bees, but plants as well.If a species of bees is wiped out, the plant exclusively dependant on it for pollination may die away too.
Another major concern is that of pathogen spillover, which may happen when infected bees from commercial hives leave the fungus on flowers and infect the native bees.