2015 Volume 30 Issue 3 Pages 235-244
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are prominent crop pollinators and are, thus, important for effective food production. The honey bee gut microbiota is mainly host specific, with only a few species being shared with other insects. It currently remains unclear how environmental/dietary conditions affect the microbiota within a honey bee population over time. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to characterize the composition of the midgut/pyloric microbiota of a honey bee apiary throughout a season. The rationale for investigating the midgut/pyloric microbiota is its dynamic nature. Monthly sampling of a demographic homogenous population of bees was performed between May and October, with concordant recording of the honey bee diet. Mixed Sanger-and Illumina 16S rRNA gene sequencing in combination with a quantitative PCR analysis were used to determine the bacterial composition. A marked increase in α-diversity was detected between May and June. Furthermore, we found that four distinct phylotypes belonging to the Proteobacteria dominated the microbiota, and these displayed major shifts throughout the season. Gilliamella apicola dominated the composition early on, and Snodgrassella alvi began to dominate when the other bacteria declined to an absolute low in October. In vitro co-culturing revealed that G. apicola suppressed S. alvi. No shift was detected in the composition of the microbiota under stable environment/dietary conditions between November and February. Therefore, environmental/dietary changes may trigger the shifts observed in the honey bee midgut/pyloric microbiota throughout a season.