Parasiten der Honigbiene Informative Summary


This 1865 text, “Parasiten der Honigbiene,” by Dr. Eduard Assmuss, explores the parasites and diseases that affect honeybees. The text begins by defining parasites and outlining the different types, including ectoparasites and endoparasites. Assmuss then focuses on four specific parasites of the honeybee: Phora incrassata, Braula coeca, Gordius subbifurcus, and Mermis albicans.

The text then delves into the devastating disease, foulbrood, which is caused by the parasitic larva of Phora incrassata. Assmuss provides a detailed description of the disease, its symptoms, and how it spreads. He concludes by discussing various theories about the origins of foulbrood and ultimately identifies Phora incrassata as the primary culprit.

Key Findings:

  • Foulbrood is a serious threat to honeybee colonies. This infectious disease can spread rapidly and cause significant losses for beekeepers.
  • Phora incrassata is the primary cause of foulbrood. The parasitic larva of this fly infects bee larvae, causing them to die and decay, resulting in the characteristic foul odor.
  • Various parasites can affect honeybees, each with varying degrees of harm. While some parasites, like the bee louse (Braula coeca), cause minor harm, others, like the Phora incrassata larva, can be devastating.
  • The impact of parasites can be magnified depending on colony health. Strong colonies are more likely to resist the effects of parasites, while weak colonies are more susceptible to disease.


  • Parasitism: The text introduces the concept of parasitism, explaining how different organisms can live on or within other organisms, feeding off their resources.
  • Foulbrood: Readers gain a thorough understanding of foulbrood, its causes, symptoms, and the devastating impact it can have on honeybee colonies.
  • Importance of Beekeeping Practices: The text emphasizes the importance of good beekeeping practices in preventing and controlling disease, such as removing infected brood and keeping hives clean.
  • Parasite-Host Relationship: The text explores the complex relationship between parasites and their hosts, highlighting how parasite behavior and host vulnerability can influence the severity of infestations.
  • Biological Diversity: Readers learn about the diversity of organisms that can act as parasites, including flies, mites, and worms.

Historical Context:

  • 19th Century Beekeeping: The text reflects the state of beekeeping practices in the 1860s, highlighting the use of traditional hive designs and the limited understanding of disease prevention.
  • Scientific Advancement: The text showcases the ongoing scientific exploration of parasites and diseases affecting honeybees, reflecting the growing interest in understanding these phenomena.
  • Importance of Observation: Assmuss emphasizes the importance of meticulous observation and detailed descriptions in studying parasites and disease.


  • Bee louse (Braula coeca) is a wingless fly that lives on bees. The bee louse is an ectoparasite, meaning it lives on the outside of its host.
  • Foulbrood is characterized by a foul odor. The decaying bee larvae produce a distinct smell that alerts beekeepers to the presence of the disease.
  • Foulbrood can spread between colonies through bee robbing. Bees from infected colonies may rob honey from healthy colonies, transferring the disease.
  • Phora incrassata larvae feed on bee larvae. They inject their eggs into bee larvae, which hatch and consume the bee larvae from the inside.
  • Mermis albicans is a nematode that infects bees. It’s an endoparasite that lives inside the bee’s body and feeds on its tissues.
  • Bee louse (Braula coeca) prefers to live on queen bees. This may weaken the queen, making her less productive or even causing her death.
  • Mermis albicans infection primarily affects drone bees. While it can also infect worker bees, it has a higher prevalence in drone bees.
  • Gordius subbifurcus is a nematode that can infect honeybees. Like Mermis albicans, it is an endoparasite.
  • Gordius subbifurcus can infect various insects. This nematode is not exclusive to honeybees and can infest a range of insect species.
  • Bee louse (Braula coeca) cannot move on its own for long periods. It relies on its bee host for transportation.
  • Bee louse (Braula coeca) larvae are laid on the hive floor. Once the larvae hatch, they must find a bee host to survive.
  • Mermis albicans and Gordius subbifurcus often leave their host to reproduce. These endoparasites may exit their bee host to mate and lay eggs in the soil.
  • Foulbrood is a bacterial disease. The bacteria responsible for foulbrood multiply within the bee larvae, eventually killing them.
  • Bee louse (Braula coeca) does not fly. It is a wingless fly and relies on its bee host for movement.
  • Foulbrood can be prevented by good beekeeping practices. This includes regularly inspecting hives, removing infected brood, and keeping the hive clean.
  • Honeybees can be infected by parasites during foraging. Bees may come into contact with parasites while visiting flowers or other locations.
  • Honeybees often exhibit signs of illness before succumbing to foulbrood. Bee larvae may become sluggish, change color, and develop a sunken appearance before dying.
  • Foulbrood can be treated with antibiotics. However, antibiotic resistance is a concern and alternative methods of control are becoming increasingly important.
  • Foulbrood can spread through contaminated hive equipment. The bacteria responsible for foulbrood can survive on hive equipment for long periods, making sanitation crucial.


  • Up to 95% of bee larvae in a foulbrood-infected colony may die. This highlights the devastating impact of the disease.
  • Bee louse (Braula coeca) infestations can reach hundreds of lice on a single bee. This indicates the potential for significant harm to individual bees.
  • Over 100 species of Oelkäfer (Meloë) are found in Europe. This reflects the diversity of this genus, highlighting the potential for different species to impact honeybees.
  • Assmuss observes thousands of bees dying from Meloë variegatus larva infestation. This emphasizes the severe consequences of this parasite for honeybee colonies.
  • Assmuss estimates a queen bee may lay up to 5,000 eggs. This underscores the importance of controlling Meloë variegatus, given the potential for massive larval populations.
  • Dzierzon observes hundreds of bee colonies dying from American foulbrood. This statistic highlights the devastating economic impact of foulbrood on beekeepers.
  • Assmuss reports that 500 species of Cleridae (Clerids) are known worldwide. This reflects the global presence of this insect family, some of which can be harmful to honeybees.
  • Assmuss observes that over 80 species of Phora (Phoras) are known in Europe. This reflects the widespread presence of this fly genus, one of which is a major threat to honeybees.
  • The bee louse (Braula coeca) can remain alive for 96 hours outside its host. This suggests that a bee louse may be able to survive for a period of time after being detached from its host.
  • Assmuss reports that over 80 species of Phora (Phoras) are known in Europe. This reflects the diversity of this fly genus, and underscores the potential for other species within the genus to pose a threat to honeybees.


  • Ectoparasites: Parasites that live on the outside of their host.
  • Endoparasites: Parasites that live inside their host.
  • Pupiparous: A term describing insects that give birth to live young, often in a pupal stage.
  • Metamorphosis: The process of transformation that many insects undergo during their life cycle.
  • Hypermetamorphosis: A type of metamorphosis characterized by multiple distinct larval stages, as observed in Meloë beetles.
  • Foulbrood: A bacterial disease that affects bee larvae, causing them to die and decay.
  • Miasma: A noxious, foul-smelling vapor or atmosphere, often associated with disease.
  • Contagium: The infectious agent or matter that causes disease.
  • Prophylaxis: Measures taken to prevent disease.
  • Helminthiasis: A parasitic infection caused by worms.
  • Spore: A reproductive unit capable of developing into a new organism.


  • Bee louse (Braula coeca) infestation: Assmuss describes how bee louse infestations can reach hundreds of lice on a single bee, and how these parasites can weaken bees and even lead to the death of queen bees.
  • Meloë variegatus larva infestation: Assmuss observes a severe case of Meloë variegatus larva infestation, where thousands of bees die from the parasites.
  • Phora incrassata larva infection and foulbrood: Assmuss provides detailed descriptions of Phora incrassata larva infection and the resulting foulbrood, including the characteristic foul odor, the spread of the disease, and its devastating impact on bee colonies.
  • Mermis albicans infection in drone bees: Assmuss reports an outbreak of Mermis albicans infection in drone bees, where the bees became weak and lethargic before dying.
  • Gordius subbifurcus infection in drone bee: Assmuss finds a Gordius subbifurcus nematode in a drone bee, highlighting the unusual occurrence of this parasite in drone bees.
  • Mucor mellitophorus infection in bee gut: The text describes the presence of Mucor mellitophorus fungus in the bee gut, suggesting a potential connection to bee health issues.
  • Beekeepers’ attempts to control foulbrood: The text discusses various methods used by beekeepers to control foulbrood, such as removing infected brood and using chlorine gas fumigation.


This 1865 text provides a fascinating glimpse into the early understanding of honeybee parasites and diseases. While some of the theories presented are outdated, the text highlights the vital importance of recognizing and controlling these threats to honeybee colonies. The discovery of Phora incrassata as the primary cause of foulbrood is particularly significant, and the text emphasizes the crucial role of good beekeeping practices in preventing and controlling diseases. The text also emphasizes the complexity of parasite-host interactions and the ongoing need for scientific investigation to protect the health and well-being of honeybees.

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