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Propolis Consumption Reduces Nosema ceranae Infection of European Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)

Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Sassari, 07100 Sassari, Italy
General Zoology, Institute of Biology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Hoher Weg 8, 06120 Halle (Saale), Germany
Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Cagliari, 09124 Cagliari, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Insects 2020, 11(2), 124;
Received: 22 January 2020 / Revised: 4 February 2020 / Accepted: 13 February 2020 / Published: 15 February 2020
Nosema ceranae is a widespread obligate intracellular parasite of the ventriculus of many species of honey bee (Apis), including the Western honey bee Apis mellifera, in which it may lead to colony death. It can be controlled in A. mellifera by feeding the antibiotic fumagillin to a colony, though this product is toxic to humans and its use has now been banned in many countries, so in beekeeping, there exists a need for alternative and safe products effective against N. ceranae. Honeybees produce propolis from resinous substances collected from plants and use it to protect their nest from parasites and pathogens; propolis is thought to decrease the microbial load of the hive. We hypothesized that propolis might also reduce N. ceranae infection of individual bees and that they might consume propolis as a form of self-medication. To test these hypotheses, we evaluated the effects of an ethanolic extract of propolis administered orally on the longevity and spore load of experimentally N. ceranae-infected worker bees and also tested whether infected bees were more attracted to, and consumed a greater proportion of, a diet containing propolis in comparison to uninfected bees. Propolis extracts and ethanol (solvent control) increased the lifespan of N. ceranae-infected bees, but only propolis extract significantly reduced spore load. Our propolis extract primarily contained derivatives of caffeic acid, ferulic acid, ellagic acid and quercetin. Choice, scan sampling and food consumption tests did not reveal any preference of N. ceranae-infected bees for commercial candy containing propolis. Our research supports the hypothesis that propolis represents an effective and safe product to control N. ceranae but worker bees seem not to use it to self-medicate when infected with this pathogen. View Full-Text
Keywords: ethanol extract; honey bee health; infection; microsporidia; nosemosis; self-medication ethanol extract; honey bee health; infection; microsporidia; nosemosis; self-medication
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Mura, A.; Pusceddu, M.; Theodorou, P.; Angioni, A.; Floris, I.; Paxton, R.J.; Satta, A. Propolis Consumption Reduces Nosema ceranae Infection of European Honey Bees (Apis mellifera). Insects 2020, 11, 124.

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