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Effects of an alternative host on the prevalence and infection intensity of a bumble bee parasite

Cite this dataset

Irwin, Rebecca; Pinilla-Gallego, Simon (2022). Effects of an alternative host on the prevalence and infection intensity of a bumble bee parasite [Dataset]. Dryad.


Several bee parasites are transmitted through flowers, and some of them can infect multiple host species. Given the shared use of flowers by bee species, parasites can potentially encounter multiple host species, which could affect the evolution of parasite virulence. We used the trypanosomatid parasite Crithidia bombi and its host, the common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens), to explore the effect of infecting an alternative host, the alfalfa leaf-cutter bee (Megachile rotundata), on parasite infectivity and ability to replicate. We conducted a serial passage experiment on primary and alternative hosts, assessing infectivity and intensity of infection during five passes. Parasite cells from each pass through the alternative host were also used to infect a group of primary hosts. We found that serial passes through the alternative host increased infectivity, but there was no effect on intensity of infection. Interestingly, both the probability and intensity of infection on the primary host increased after serial passage through the alternative host. This increase in intensity of infection could be due to maladaptation after selection of new C. bombi strains has occurred in the alternative host. This study suggests that host switching has the potential to affect the adaptation of bee parasites to their hosts.


These data are from a laboratory serial passage experiment in which Crithidia bombi were passed through the alternative host (AA treatment) or back to the primary host (AB treatment). We compared prevalence and intensity of infection between these two treatments and relative to a Bombus impatiens (primary host) control. Trials included up to 5 passes. 

Usage notes

ReadMe file is included.


National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, Award: R01GM122062

Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center