An Asian parasite that's been blamed for bee deaths in Europe has been found in Canadian hives, and a Maritime entomologist says he thinks it may have played a part in killing bees in the region.

Twice the usual number of bees died last winter in hives in Prince Edward Island. Four timesthe usual numberdied in New Brunswick.

Entomologist Dick Rogers thinks he may have a new clue to what's killing them.

The region already has one form of the parasite Nosema apis, but in May Rogers discovered an Asian version called Nosema ceranae in Maritime hives.

He says the pest, which attacks bees' intestinal tracts, may be partly to blame for the mysterious bee deaths, especially because it comes from a bee not native to our region, and was likely transported here from infected bees from Europe.

"We don't know the impact of this new species yet, although we suspect it's going to…create more problems. It's going to be more virulent possibly and it may not respond to the current treatments we have for Nosema [apis ]."

However Agriculture Canada's leading bee scientist, Steve Pernal, is taking the sting out of that theory.

Pernal says although this parasite has just been identified in Canadian hives, evidence from frozen bee samples in the U.S. shows it's been there since the 1990s.

"If it's been around that long, and if it is such a big problem, I think we would have encountered it before."

Instead, Pernal blames unusual weather conditions experienced in Canada to explain the extra stress placed on bee colonies this year.