Keys to bee health found in their gut microbiome

Little carpenter bee on a flower. Credit: York University.

The local environment plays a key role in the health and diversity of the wild bee gut microbiome, which could help uncover unseen stressors and early indicators of potential threats, University of York scientists say in a new study.

Piloting a new frontier of metagenomics, researchers have sequenced the entire genomes of three carpenter bee species, a wild bee species, in North America, Asia and Australia. This analysis allowed them to gain insight into the bees’ gut microbiome (bacteria and fungi), diet and viral load, as well as their DNA in the environment.

Unlike social bees (such as honey bees and bumblebees), the researchers found that solitary bees get their microbiome, which is important for health, from the environment where they forge food rather than inherit it from their nest mates. Carpenter bees burrow into the stems of woody plants to lay their eggs rather than into hives.

“This could make them better bioindicators, as they are much more sensitive to their environment,” said Sandra Rehan, assistant professor in the Faculty of Life Sciences, author of the study. microbiomes”, published today in the journal Communication biology.

In Australia, the local population had very peculiar metagenomes and microbiomes; so much so that machine learning tools were able to reliably predict which population each bee came from.

The research team also found crop pathogens in carpenter bee microbiomes that had previously only been found in honey bees.

“These pathogens are not necessarily harmful to bees, but these wild bees have the potential to be disease vectors that could have negative consequences for agriculture,” says Rehan. Finding out how these pathogens spread among wild bees is important because bees contribute to environmental and agricultural health around the world, in addition to over $200 billion worth of annual agricultural services.

Establishing a baseline of what a healthy microbiome looks like in wild bees allows scientists to compare species across continents and populations, and to figure out how diseases and harmful microbiota are introduced and transmitted.

“We can really analyze bee health very systematically by looking at population genetics and parasitic pathogen loads, healthy microbiomes and abnormalities,” says Rehan, whose research associate Wyatt Schell led the study. “The long-term goal is to be able to use these tools to be able to also detect early signs of stress and habitats in need of restoration or conservation. Develop it almost like a diagnostic tool for bee health.”

Keys to bee health found in their gut microbiome

Ceratin Japanese. Credit: York University.

Researchers believe they have captured the core microbiome of carpenter bees for the first time. They found beneficial bacteria in all three carpenter bee species that helped with metabolic and genetic functions. They also found species lactobacilliwhich is an important group of beneficial bacteria essential for good gut health and found in most bee bloodlines. lactobacilli may protect against common fungal pathogens, strengthen the immune system, and facilitate nutrient absorption.

However, a recent journal article Environmental DNA Rehan and her graduate student Phuong Nguyen, Microbiome development of a small carpenter bee, Seratina calcaratawho studied the microbiome of brood and adult carpenter bees in cities found they lacked lactobacilli.

“It’s worrisome,” Rehan says. “We are continuing these studies to look at more subtle urban and rural comparisons and long-term data to really understand these environmental stressors. Any time we characterize the microbiome and see deviations from what we consider normal, it can give us an indication of a threatened population or species.”

Overall, the results indicate that metagenomic methods can provide important information about the ecology and health of wild bees in the future.

“We have tried this research approach on several species, but we are aiming to study dozens of wild bee species and broader comparisons are coming. These two studies are really laying the groundwork,” she says. “The long-term goal is to be able to use these tools to detect early signs of stress in wild bees and thus identify habitats in need of restoration or conservation. We are excited to create tools for a new era of wild bees. research and conservation.

Maternal instincts lead to the social life of bees

Additional Information:
Comparative metagenomics reveals a deeper understanding of intra- and interspecific variability 2 among wild bee microbiomes, Communication biology (2022).

Courtesy of York University

Quote: Clues about bee health found in their gut microbiome (2022 June 17), retrieved June 17, 2022 from html.

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