Larvae act as a transient transmission hub for the prevalent bumblebee parasite Crithidia bombi

Arran Folly, Hauke Koch, Philip Stevenson, Mark Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Disease transmission networks are key for understanding parasite epidemiology. Within the social insects, structured contact networks have been suggested to limit the spread of diseases to vulnerable members of their society, such as the queen or brood. However, even these complex social structures do not provide complete protection, as some diseases, which are transmitted by workers during brood care, can still infect the brood. Given the high rate of feeding interactions that occur in a social insect colony, larvae may act as disease transmission hubs. Here we use the bumblebee Bombus terrestris and its parasite Crithidia bombi to determine the role of brood in bumblebee disease transmission networks. Larvae that were artificially inoculated with C. bombi showed no signs of infection seven days after inoculation. However, larvae that received either an artificial inoculation or a contaminated feed from brood-caring workers were able to transmit the parasite to naive workers. These results suggest that the developing brood is a potential route of intracolonial disease transmission and should be included when considering social insect disease transmission networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-85
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Invertebrate Pathology
Early online date7 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017

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