Purple Brood

Liz and I spent a week in Southern California taking samples for the National Honey Bee Disease Survey. We came across purple brood – something I had never seen before. The larvae had a bright purple hue to them along their gut line. It was quite pretty.

After some research, it seems that the most likely cause for purple brood is nectar from the plant Cyrilla racemiflora (common names are southern leatherwood or summer titi). It is poisonous to the brood, so beekeepers either have to move their colonies away or take the loss. Only one colony of the eight we sampled had it, so hopefully the other colonies were finding different nectar sources.

The range for this plant is supposed to be in the southeast, but we saw effects in the southwest. My guess is there was a plant nursery nearby growing the plants for sale or a house that was especially found of using that plant for landscaping. It was really neat to see, but unfortunate for the beekeeper.

Purple larvae

Larvae turned purple from the nectar of Cyrilla racemiflora.

Written By: Katie Lee

Katie Lee has written 54 post in this blog.

I'm a part of the Midwest Bee Team based out of the University of Minnesota. I work with commercial migratory beekeepers in North Dakota and Minnesota to help them monitor pest and disease levels. Before I was on the Midwest Team, I was on the CA Bee Team working for the Northern California bee breeders. I was introduced to honey bees during my last semester as an undergrad when I took a class on social insects with Dr. Marla Spivak. Marla asked me to work in the U of MN Bee Lab over the summer, and have been enthralled with bees ever since. My main interests are bee breeding, Varroa, disease ecology, and extension work. I received both a BS in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior and a MS in Entomology from the University of Minnesota.

  • http://bees.tennessee.edu/ Michael Wilson

    Interesting. I have seen this one time in TN in just a few larvae.