Interspecific geographic distribution and variation of the pathogens Nosema bombi and Crithidia species in United States bumble bee populations

Nils Cordes, Wei Fone Huang, James P. Strange, Sydney A. Cameron, Terry L. Griswold, Jeffrey D. Lozier, Leellen F. Solter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several bumble bee (Bombus) species in North America have undergone range reductions and rapid declines in relative abundance. Pathogens have been suggested as causal factors, however, baseline data on pathogen distributions in a large number of bumble bee species have not been available to test this hypothesis. In a nationwide survey of the US, nearly 10,000 specimens of 36 bumble bee species collected at 284 sites were evaluated for the presence and prevalence of two known Bombus pathogens, the microsporidium Nosema bombi and trypanosomes in the genus Crithidia. Prevalence of Crithidia was ≤10% for all host species examined but was recorded from 21% of surveyed sites. Crithidia was isolated from 15 of the 36 Bombus species screened, and were most commonly recovered from Bombus bifarius, Bombus bimaculatus, Bombus impatiens and Bombus mixtus. Nosema bombi was isolated from 22 of the 36 US Bombus species collected. Only one species with more than 50 sampled bees, Bombus appositus, was free of the pathogen; whereas, prevalence was highest in Bombus occidentalis and Bombus pensylvanicus, two species that are reportedly undergoing population declines in North America. A variant of a tetranucleotide repeat in the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) of the N. bombi rRNA gene, thus far not reported from European isolates, was isolated from ten US Bombus hosts, appearing in varying ratios in different host species. Given the genetic similarity of the rRNA gene of N. bombi sampled in Europe and North America to date, the presence of a unique isolate in US bumble could reveal one or more native North American strains and indicate that N. bombi is enzootic across the Holarctic Region, exhibiting some genetic isolation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-216
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Invertebrate Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Bombus species
  • Crithidia species
  • Microsporidia
  • Nosema bombi
  • Pollinator decline
  • RRNA
  • Trypanosomatida

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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