A spiroplasma of serogroup IV causes a May-disease-like disorder of honeybees in Southwestern France

Microb Ecol. 1982 Dec;8(4):387-99. doi: 10.1007/BF02010677.


Honeybees affected by a disorder resembling the classical "May disease" in southwestern France contained numerous helical, motile organisms in their digestive tracts and hemolymph. Two strains of the organism (B31 and B39) were cultured and triply cloned in the BSR spiroplasma medium. The electrophoretic patterns of spiroplasmal proteins in 1 - and 2-dimensional polyacrylamide gels were similar to those of group IV spiroplasmas F1 and F2, cultured previously from flower surfaces in France. The organism could be introduced into adult bees by injection or food ingestion at various stages after emergence. Agent administered by either route multiplied to high titers in the hemolymph and killed the bees. Both multiplication and the induced lethal effect of the agent could be prevented by tetracycline but not penicillin. Spiroplasmas that were nearly identical to the B31 and B39 strains were also recovered from the surface of flowers collected within the area visited by the bees from the diseased hives.