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Summary

Adequate protein nutrition supports healthy honeybees and reduces the susceptibility to disease. However little is known concerning the effect of the diet on Nosema ceranae development, an obligate intracellular parasite that disturbs the protein metabolism of honeybees (Apis mellifera). Here we tested the effect of natural (bee bread) and non-natural protein diets (substitute) on haemolymph proteins titers of honeybee and N. ceranae spore production. The natural diet induced higher levels of protein and parasite development, but the survival of bees was also higher than with non-natural diets. The data showed that the administration of an artificially high nutritious diet in terms of crude protein content is not sufficient to promote healthy bees; rather the protein ingested should be efficiently assimilated. The overall results support the idea that the physiological condition of the bees is linked to protein levels in the haemolymph, which affects the tolerance to parasite; consequently the negative impact of the parasite on host fitness is not associated only with the level of infection.