Chris Riley’s take on Nosema

I would like to share a blog from an undergraduate student conducting research in our lab. His name is Chris Riley and here is his take on Nosema…

Before coming to work for the vanEngelsdorp lab, the importance of honey bees never really crossed my mind, aside from their obvious role in the production of honey. I knew they were important pollinators, but I never would have guessed just how fundamental they are in pollinating the many different foods I eat on a regular basis. I also couldn’t have imagined the extensive network of beekeepers and researchers across academia, industry and the government that exists with the goal of increasing collaboration, research, and understanding and outreach for honey bees, their role as pollinators, and the issues they face. As a member of the vanEngelsdorp lab for the past semester, I have had the opportunity to learn more about one of these issues, the disease Nosemosis.

Ryan, Julius, and I have spent our time in the lab conducting counts of the Nosema spores present in individual bee abdomens. This is different from the current methodology in place in that large numbers of bees are normally processed at once. By performing counts for individual bees, we hoped to provide information that teases out the issue of whether moderate levels of the spore were present in all bees or if just a few bees contributed to a large spore count .

The most interesting experience I had while working on this project was viewing samples that were absolutely loaded with Nosema spores. It took me a while to learn just what the spores looked like under the microscope, but I distinctly remember seeing my first sample with over 1000 spores in the 5 square count. Most of the bees had no spores present in their abdomens, so to see the occasional sample with 800, 900, or even 1000+ was truly remarkable. A lot of my research experience has focused on larger scale topics such as predator-prey dynamics and ecological phenomenon, so conducting this research using a hemocytometer was a fantastic learning experience.

At this point, I am not sure what the implications of our research will include. Seeing and working alongside the Bee Informed partnership in action has given me a feel for the amount of effort and energy that has gone into learning more about honey bees and so I can only hope that my involvement will help play a part in the larger picture.