Chalkbrood (Ascosphaera apis) and stonebrood (Aspergillus flavus) are well known fungal brood diseases of honeybees (Apis mellifera), but they have hardly been systematically studied because the difficulty of rearing larvae in vitro has precluded controlled experimentation. Chalkbrood is a chronic honeybee-specific disease that can persist in colonies for years, reducing both brood and honey production, whereas stonebrood is a rare facultative pathogen that also affects hosts other than honeybees and can likely survive outside insect hosts. Hive infection trials have indicated that accidental drops in comb temperature increase the prevalence of chalkbrood, but it has remained unclear whether virulence is directly temperature-dependent. We used a newly established in vitro rearing technique for honeybee larvae to test whether there are systematic temperature effects on mortality induced by controlled infections, and whether such effects differed between the two fungal pathogens. We found that increasing spore dosage at infection had a more dramatic effect on mortality from stonebrood compared to chalkbrood. In addition, a 24. h cooling period after inoculation increased larval mortality from chalkbrood infection, whereas such a cooling period decreased mortality after stonebrood infection. These results raise interesting questions about honeybee defenses against obligate and facultative pathogens and about the extent to which stress factors in the host (dis)favor pathogens with lesser degrees of specialization.
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