Type of cages

Numerous cage designs exist for maintaining honey bees in the laboratory and for performing experiments (see Williams et al. (2013) in the BEEBOOK). Despite this diversity, it is necessary that cages meet basic criteria described by Williams et al. (2013). 

  • Vital for Nosema studies, cages must be used once and discarded, or sterilized if used multiple times, to prevent contamination by Nosema spores.  Multiple-use cages should be made from materials that are easily autoclaveable such as stainless steel and glass because spores of N. ceranae in PBS can only be confidently destroyed by exposure to 121°C for 30 minutes (Fenoy et al., 2009). Dry sterilisation of wooden cages (i.e., 80°C for 1 hr.) destroys viability of N. apis spores (Cantwell and Shimanuki, 1969); this method is also probably effective for N. ceranae, although it remains to be verified.
  • To reduce risk of contamination by Nosema spores among individuals differentially treated and maintained in the same incubator, cages should be placed sufficiently apart. If screens or holes are used to provide ventilation, they should face in opposite directions.

Additional materials, such as comb (e.g. Czekońska, 2007) and plastic strips for releasing queen mandibular pheromone (e.g. Alaux et al., 2010a), are sometimes used during laboratory experiments.  Although queen mandibular pheromone probably promotes honey bee health and reduces stress of the caged individuals, its effect on Nosema development is not understood and therefore its use should be avoided until our knowledge is improved.