Microbiome: The Puzzle in a Bee's Gut

Nature   By Alla Katsnelson    May 21, 2015

Sometimes, serendipity arrives on the wings of disease. It was colony collapse disorder (CCD), a mysterious condition that hit honeybee hives in autumn 2006, that brought bees to the laboratory of evolutionary biologist Nancy Moran. Moran, working at the time at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, had been studying microbes that live inside aphids and leafhoppers since the early 1990s. Owing to her knowledge of insect-associated bacteria, she was brought in by a team of genome sleuths...

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Queen Bee Microbiomes Differ From Those of Worker Bees

 DigitalJournal.com/Science   By Sravanth Verma     March 14, 2015 

Researchers from the University of Indiana have published the very first comprehensive analysis of queen honey bee gut bacteria, and have reported that these defer markedly from those of worker bees.

 

The gut bacteria (gut microbiomes) are generally transmitted through the maternal line, in contrast with the findings of the honey bee (Apis mellifera). Study co-author Irene L.G. Newton, also an assistant professor of biology at the University of Indiana said, “In the case of the honey bee, we found that the microbiome in queen bees did not reflect those of worker bees — not even the progeny of the queen or her attendants. In fact, queen bees lack many of the bacterial groups that are considered to be core to worker microbiomes.”

Unlike most other mammals, including human beings, honey bees' gut bacteria transmission takes place through the insect's environment and social context, which is referred to as horizontal transmission. Thus, the striking differences between queen bee and worker bee diet and environment are reflected in the microbiome. Queens usually consume protein-laden royal jelly and have very limited exposure to the outside world and the rest of the comb, besides her nest. Workers by contrast feed on “bee bread” and travel about quite a bit.

“In some ways, the development of the queen microbiome mirrors that of workers, with larval queens’ associated bacteria resembling those found in worker larvae,” Newton said. “But, by the time they mature, queens have developed a microbial signature distinct from the rest of the colony.”

Honey production and bee-keeping is a multi-million dollar business thanks to the many uses and benefits of honey. Bee keepers sometimes remove a queen bee and transfer them to new hives. Based on this study, such practices may not have a detrimental effect on colony health.

“Because the queen microbiome does not reflect the workers within a specific colony, the physical movement of queens from one colony environment to another does not seem to have any major effects on either the queen gut or worker gut communities,” Newton said.

The study titled "Characterization of the honey bee microbiome throughout the queen-rearing process" was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, in February 2015.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/science/queen-bee-microbiomes-differ-from-those-of-worker-bees/article/428288#ixzz3V91zcwuS

The Environment May Change, but the Microbiome of Queen Bees Does Not

North Carolina State University    By Dr. David Tarpy, Matt Shipman   March 2, 2015

The Queen Bee is marked by a green dot. (Credit: David Tarpy)Researchers from North Carolina State University, Indiana University and Wellesley College have characterized the gut microbiome of honey bee queens. This is the first thorough census of the gut microbiome – which consists of all the microorganisms that live in the gut of the organism – in queen bees.

“We found that the microbiome changes as the queen matures, but the microbiomes of different queens are very similar – regardless of the environment each queen is in,” says Dr. David Tarpy, a professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work.

The research evaluated the gut fauna found in honey bee (Apis mellifera) queens at every point in their development, from the larval stage through their emergence as adults capable of reproduction. The researchers also assessed the gut microbiome of worker bees in each queen’s colony to see if there was any relationship between the microbiome of the workers and the microbiome of the queens. The study found that a queen’s microbiome does not change when placed in a new colony – and the colony’s microbiome doesn’t change either.

“There are large, commercial operations that produce thousands of queens each year for sale to professional and amateur beekeepers,” Tarpy says. “Up until now, nobody has really asked whether a queen’s microbiome changes when the queen is introduced into a new environment.

“It doesn’t – and that’s a good thing. Our findings tell us that beekeepers who replace their queens aren’t disrupting the microbiome of either the queen or the colony.”

The finding also opens the door to new areas of study – such as whether a queen’s microbiome could be manipulated to improve her health or reproductive success.

“Now that we know placing a queen in a new colony doesn’t change her microbiome, it makes sense to see if there is anything we can do to the microbiome to improve the queen’s chances of success,” says Dr. Heather Mattila, Knafel Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences at Wellesley College and a co-author of the paper.

The paper, “Characterization of the Honey Bee Microbiome Throughout the Queen-Rearing Process,” is published online in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The paper was also co-authored by Dr. Irene Newton of Indiana. The research was supported by a grant from the National Honey Board.

Read more: https://news.ncsu.edu/2015/03/tarpy-microbiome-2015/