The environment may change, but the microbiome of queen bees does not

March 2, 2015 by Matt Shipman, North Carolina State University
The queen bee in this image is marked with 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 fauna found in (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 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.

"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.

Researchers used a painted dot to track queen bees. Credit: David R. Tarpy

"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.

Explore further: Researchers find genetic diversity key to survival of honey bee colonies

More information: Applied and Environmental Microbiology, aem.asm.org/content/early/2015 … EM.00307-15.abstract

Related Stories

You are what you eat: How gut bacteria affect brain health

January 22, 2015

The hundred trillion bacteria living in an adult human—mostly in the intestines, making up the gut microbiome—have a significant impact on behavior and brain health. The many ways gut bacteria can impact normal brain ...

Recommended for you

Microplastics may enter foodchain through mosquitoes

September 19, 2018

Mosquito larvae have been observed ingesting microplastics that can be passed up the food chain, researchers said Wednesday, potentially uncovering a new way that the polluting particles could damage the environment.

In a tiny worm, a close-up view of where genes are working

September 19, 2018

Scientists have long prized the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans as a model for studying the biology of multicellular organisms. The millimeter-long worms are easy to grow in the lab and manipulate genetically, and have only ...

Social animals have tipping points, too

September 18, 2018

In relatively cool temperatures, Anelosimus studiosus spiders lay their eggs and spin their webs and share their prey in cooperative colonies from Massachusetts to Argentina. Temperatures may vary, but the colonies continue ...

Why do we love bees but hate wasps?

September 18, 2018

A lack of understanding of the important role of wasps in the ecosystem and economy is a fundamental reason why they are universally despised whereas bees are much loved, according to UCL-led research.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.