71 Courtney MacInnis and Dr. Steve Pernal – Honey Bee Nosema Disease: An Old Disease With New Twists


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Courtney MacInnis received her MSc from the University of Alberta in 2017. As a MSc student, Courtney examined the viability and infectivity of Nosema ceranae spores in various substrates associated with honey bee colonies. Courtney is now a PhD student at the University of Alberta, supervised by Drs. Lien Luong and Steve Pernal. Her research aims to examine the pathological impacts of two emerging pathogens, N. ceranae and Lotmaria passim, on their honey bee host.  In her spare time, Courtney enjoys curling, barre, eating pastry, and curating an extensive collection of bee-themed items.

Dr. Steve Pernal has has been employed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada since 2001 as a Research Scientist in Beaverlodge, Alberta where he leads a national honey bee research program and also serves as Officer-in-Charge. Steve’s work has been diverse, and has included the detection, control and mitigation of residues associated with oxytetracycline-resistant American foulbrood disease and the development of food-grade therapies for chalkbrood disease. He was also involved in devising therapies and management strategies for the control of Nosema ceranae as well as other emerging parasites of honey bees. Steve has also been an integral member of three successive large-scale Genome Canada projects evaluating markers for resistance to AFB and Varroa. He was instrumental in the establishment of the National Bee Diagnostic Centre, also located in Beaverlodge, which has recently completed a 4-year national survey of honey bee pests and diseases in Canada.

Listen in to learn how the small fungus Nosema affects bee colonies, how and where it thrives, and what is being done to stop it in the research community.

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“Nosema is kind of a tough nut to crack. There have been many people besides ourselves that have worked on alternative treatments to Nosema over the years and have largely proved unsuccessful.” – Dr. Steve Pernal

Show Notes:

  • What causes Nosema disease
  • How Nosema ceranae has affected the wintering of bees
  • How Nosema causes so many problems in colonies
  • What happens inside a bee when infected with Nosema, and how it targets the mid-gut of the bee
  • The vulnerable stages of Nosema that can be taken advantage of
  • How different beekeepers try to mitigate spore production in their colonies and equipment
  • How Nosema ceranae often survive in unideal environments
  • The hardiness of these spores and why they are so hard to eradicate
  • What methods Steve and Courtney recommend in reducing Nosema spores
  • How to tell if your colony is infected by Nosema, and how to differentiate between Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis
  • How to test your colony for Nosema infection
  • What work is being done at Beaverlodge to fight Nosema’s effects on pollinators
  • Why fumagillin is not perfect in it’s treatment of Nosema and the side effects it has on colonies

“The only way to tell for sure if [your bees] have Nosema, if you don’t care about the species, would be microscopy. But if you’re curious whether you have a Nosema apis or ceranae infection, you have to use molecular techniques to differentiate between the two species.” – Courtney MacInnis

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