Researchers worry bees are facing their own pandemic fueled by fungus

Researchers worry bees are facing their own global pandemic driven by an infectious fungus that’s passed through flower petals during pollination

  • University of Colorado Boulder researchers studied bees infected with nosema
  • Nosema is a single-cell parasite that emits spores that form into a fungus
  • Different variations of the fungus have infected bees all over the world
  • Researchers worry a new novel form of the fungus could trigger a pandemic 

While humans continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, some scientists worry that bees are quietly dealing with a pandemic of their own.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have documented how bees in Europe have been afflicted with a contagious and deadly fungus that can be spread through flower petals during pollination.

Called nosema, different varieties of the fungus have been documented all over the world, including in South Africa, Kenya, Russia, Brazil, the United States, and Canada.

Researchers from University of Colorado Boulder studied nosema, a deadly parasitic fungus that could be on the verge of causing a pandemic among bees

According to the researchers, exposure to the fungus is contributing to bee colony collapse across Europe and could have dire consequences for bee populations around the world.

Nosema is a type of fungus know as a microsporidia – a single-cell parasite that forms spores that grow into a fungus.

When nosema infects a bee, it first ruptures the infected cells, then releases spores that spread through the body and eventually kill the bee.

Before the bee dies, it can also excrete these spores in its feces and during pollination, leaving them all over flowers where other bees can become exposed and infected.

In some areas, this has led to year-round nosema infections for beehive colonies, according to a report in the team’s findings in the University of Colorado Boulder’s news blog.

Nosema cells can be excreted by infected bees during pollination, leaving active spores on flower petals that could later expose other bees

Beekeepers have helped fight the spread of nosema by breeding particular kinds of resistant bees and using plant extracts to treat bees with current infections.

Bees in different regions have developed immunity to different types of nosema, which has helped limit the spread of the fungus, but researchers worry a novel strain could sweep across multiple regions in the world despite local resistance.

‘More work needs to be done to understand Nosema infections in native bee species and the potential consequences to native ecosystems, if native bees suffer a similar fate as honeybees when infected,’University of Colorado Boulder’s Arthur Grupe II said.


Declines in recent months to honey bee numbers and health caused global concern due to the insects’ critical role as a major pollinator.

Bee health has been closely watched in recent years as nutritional sources available to honey bees have declined and contamination from pesticides has increased.

In animal model studies, researchers have found that combined exposure to pesticide and poor nutrition decreased bee health.

Bees use sugar to fuel flights and work inside the nest, but pesticides decrease their hemolymph (‘bee blood’) sugar levels and therefore cut their energy stores.

When pesticides are combined with limited food supplies, bees lack the energy to function, causing survival rates to plummet.

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