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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am curious to know the extent to which beekeepers in other countries do Nosema spore counts for management purposes. Of course, I am familiar with Randy Oliver’s spore count protocol on his website (Sick Bees – Part 13: Simple Microscopy of Nosema for beekeepers). I am also familiar with protocols published by the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association Tech Transfer team, University of Florida IFAS Extension, Reuter, et al. at the University of Minnesota, Hornitzky (NWS Australia), the Laboratoire de Sophia Antipoli (France), and a couple of others. You can find brief protocol descriptions in the peer review scientific literature as well, e.g., Pohorecka, et al. 2018. “The Spring Assessment of Nosema Spp. Infection in Honey Bee Colonies (Apis mellifera L.) - Sampling as an Important Aspect of a Reliable Diagnosis.” J. Apic. Sci. 62(1). G.E. Cantwell’s 1970 “Standard methods for counting Nosema spores” (American Bee Journal, 110) appears to be the foundational methods statement re. Nosema spore counts.

Nonetheless, none of the above provides a clear sense of management practices internationally with respect to Nosema diagnosis and spore counting protocols. To what extent do beekeepers in Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere do spore counts as part of their Nosema management practices? What are their protocols?
 

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I am curious to know the extent to which beekeepers in other countries do Nosema spore counts for management purposes. [...] To what extent do beekeepers in Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere do spore counts as part of their Nosema management practices? What are their protocols?
Hello Peter.
I'm going to answer a different question: "Does anyone actually undertake any Nosema management practices ?

Personally I don't, as I don't experience sick bees (touch wood), other than the occasional case of DWV, thanks to our friend the Varroa mite. Generally speaking, Nosema simply doesn't feature on my radar. And judging by comments on the UK BeeBase site, I'm far from being alone ...
The National Bee Unit has discontinued the adult bee disease screening service which tested samples of bees for the presence of Nosema spp., Amoeba and Acarine (Tracheal mites). In previous years, the demand for this non statutory service has been high which warranted the need for a commercial service. However, in recent years the number of samples and requests by beekeepers for an adult bee disease screening has reduced dramatically, with the service rarely being used throughout the year.
http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/index.cfm?pageid=117
It would appear that maintaining strong, dynamic, well-fed and disease-free colonies (which I always endeavour to do) is the key to eliminating - or at least controlling - this parasite:
Instead of using medicines for treatment of Nosemosis, beekeepers should try to maintain their colonies in good health by applying good husbandry practices such as maintaining strong, well fed and disease tolerant colonies, headed by young and prolific queens.
http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/index.cfm?pageid=191
So, without any indication of a problem, there seems little point in performing spore counts. And - even if I were to find Nosema spores, what course of action could I then take(?) - as there are currently no approved proprietary products registered for Nosema control in the UK.

Although not answering the question being asked, hope the above is of some interest nevertheless.
LJ
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
There may well be significant regional differences regarding the distribution and seriousness of Nosema spp. infections as well as "management" strategies. For example, here in Newfoundland I know I've had Nosema ceranae spores in at least some of my colonies because it turned up in PCR testing (although with negligible copies/bee and asymptomatic). I use various recommended management strategies to prevent low-level, asymptomatic infections from becoming symptomatic ones (you've touched on them). On the other hand, I know of two beeks who had serious Nosemosis problems with a small number of colonies last spring.

Across Canada there are major regional differences. In the a recent issue of HIVELIGHTS (Canadian Honey Council magazine), Rod Scarlett reported that the "CHC has recognized the importance of maintaining the availability of Fumagilin-B and at a recent Board meeting passed a motion that the CHC, 'investigate and pursue information regarding the feasibility of obtaining the Canadian rights to the label and formulation of Fumagilan B as well as look for options for supply of both the active and processing lab facility'. The whole process may take time, and it may include partnerships, but knowing how important nosema control is to many beekeepers, it would seem appropriate to ensure some amount of Canadian control in its production" (August 2018: 3). This appears to speak to the needs of beekeepers in Alberta and elsewhere in Western Canada, who have significant Nosemosis issues. This part of Canada has the greatest number of large-scale commercial beekeepers, who are pollinating canola, blueberry, and other crops.

The rule of thumb is that if you have Nosema spp. spore counts >1 million, you administer fumagillan. Hence the need for spore counts.

On the other hand, Daniel Borges at the Ontario Beekeepers' Association's Tech Transfer Team in Guelph told me that they do not recommend the use of fumagillan because of the preponderance of Nosema ceranae and new, unpublished research by the Tech Transfer Team suggesting that fumagillan promotes the proliferation of more virulent strains of the microsporidium. The Tech Transfer team prefers IPM approaches to dealing with Nosema infections.

The provincial apiarist in Quebec appears to be of the same mind as the folks in Ontario, although she recognizes that many Quebecois beeks want fumagillan in their medicine bundles.

So, you can see that depending upon where you are beekeeping in Canada, Nosemosis may or may not be considered a serious problem, and there are significant differences in management strategies, namely, use of fumagillan or not (IPM exclusively, no fungicide).

I remain curious about the extent to which beeks elsewhere in the world do spore counts.
 

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T
The rule of thumb is that if you have Nosema spp. spore counts >1 million, you administer fumagillan. Hence the need for spore counts.

On the other hand, Daniel Borges at the Ontario Beekeepers' Association's Tech Transfer Team in Guelph told me that they do not recommend the use of fumagillan because of the preponderance of Nosema ceranae and new, unpublished research by the Tech Transfer Team suggesting that fumagillan promotes the proliferation of more virulent strains of the microsporidium. The Tech Transfer team prefers IPM approaches to dealing with Nosema infections.

The provincial apiarist in Quebec appears to be of the same mind as the folks in Ontario, although she recognizes that many Quebecois beeks want fumagillan in their medicine bundles.
Fumagillin is banned in Europe, has been a looong time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yep, I know it's been banned in Europe. But do beekeepers anywhere in Europe do spore counts to assist with Nosemosis diagnosis?
 

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Yep, I know it's been banned in Europe. But do beekeepers anywhere in Europe do spore counts to assist with Nosemosis diagnosis?
In Finland they do and in Denmark is has been a selection criteria in queen breeding for a long time.

I have had sometimes spores counted of my bee samples. Lately the main interest has been whether they are nosema apis or cerana type.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for your reply, Johani. Do you know what the spore counting protocols are in Finland and Denmark? You say that you have done your own spore counts. Are you using a phase contrast compound microscope and haemocytometer?

I imagine they are using PCR (molecular) testing to differentiate between Nosema apis and N. ceranae?
 

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Thanks for your reply, Johani. Do you know what the spore counting protocols are in Finland and Denmark? You say that you have done your own spore counts. Are you using a phase contrast compound microscope and haemocytometer?
I would not have a clue of the methods.

I said "I have had spores counted", by saying so I meant other people have done them for me. Results were confusing, one million meaning not so much, am I right?

EVIRA is the organisation doing them (maybe using some other laboratories but their own,too):
https://www.evira.fi/en/shared-topics/news/infectious-bee-diseases-common-and-widespread-in-finland/, in the end there is contact information.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Myself and two other beekeepers in my region had samples tested for Nosema ceranae in August 2017. The testing was done by the Animal Health Laboratory at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. This lab did not do spore counts at the time; instead they did qPCR (molecular) analysis. The 'q' in qPCR means "quantitative" and therefore the test results were provided with a +/- for the pathogen in addition to number of copies per bee. We all tested positive for Nosema ceranae, but none of us had clinical symptoms of Nosemosis. I discussed the merits of qPCR with the provincial apiarist of Ontario who confirmed that they presently cannot associate specific qPCR numbers with clinical symptoms. It's a work in progress. In addition he told me that they often see symptoms of Nosemosis with spore counts (not done at AHL) <1 million, and no symptoms with counts far greater than 1 million. I don't know if he was referring to N. apis and/or N. ceranae. They are hard to tell apart microscopically which is why positive ID and quantification must be done with qPCR. We know that symptoms of N. apis infection are quite different than those of N. ceranae. It seems that the N. ceranae pathogen is a very mysterious one. We have lots to learn about it.
 

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Used to have a lot of problems with Nosema years ago, over fifteen years anyway, don't get many problems with it these days, two or three colonies a season and these can be treated and the Nosema problem gone/cleared within two weeks.
Used to check every colony for Nosema spores twice during the season back when it was a problem, once in spring and again in Autumn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Good day Beekuk. What was/is your method of treatment? I take it you just look for visible symptoms of Nosemosis such as dysentery spotting on the tops of frames and streaking on the front of the hives??? No spore counting.
 

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Good day Beekuk. What was/is your method of treatment? I take it you just look for visible symptoms of Nosemosis such as dysentery spotting on the tops of frames and streaking on the front of the hives??? No spore counting.
Very rarely get any signs of dysentery, in fact have not seen that for many years now, this could be to do with the predominant Nosema now being Ceranae, rather than Apis. Other visible signs of Ceranae do become apparent though when in comparison with other colonies at certain times of the year.

No spore counting, but gut sample of ten bees tested individually under the microscope for spores.
 

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I have one hive that was tested by a virus mapping program run by NY Bee Wellness.
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What I noticed with this one hive was congregating bees on the landing board. When inspected there was not much honey stored at all. I do know that if the boxes are frozen it will kill the microsporidian but frames no. This hive unfortunately swarmed, but made a full come back when it did, lots of bees and lots of honey. I don’t know how BVS did th3 test. Deb
I have the rest of the reports that has a graph of additional viruses.
 

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That is great; this is one of the many reasons to have a sustainable apiary, following what Mike Palmer does, so haven’t bought nucs or packages since 2016 (but did buy a few queens this year).
 
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