Bacterial diversity in worker adults of Apis mellifera capensis and Apis mellifera scutellata (Insecta: Hymenoptera) assessed using 16S rRNA sequences

J Invertebr Pathol. 2003 Oct;84(2):96-103. doi: 10.1016/j.jip.2003.08.007.


High-fidelity PCR of 16S rRNA sequences was used to identify bacteria associated with worker adults of the honeybee subspecies Apis mellifera capensis and Apis mellifera scutellata. An expected approximately 1.5-kb DNA band, representing almost the entire length of the 16S rRNA gene, was amplified from both subspecies and cloned. Ten unique sequences were obtained: one sequence each clustered with Bifidobacterium (Gram-positive eubacteria), Lactobacillus (Gram-positive eubacteria), and Gluconacetobacter (Gram-negative alpha-proteobacteria); two sequences each clustered with Simonsiella (beta-proteobacteria) and Serratia (gamma-proteobacteria); and three sequences each clustered with Bartonella (alpha-proteobacteria). Although the sequences relating to these six bacterial genera initially were obtained from either A. m. capensis or A. m. scutellata or both, newly designed honeybee-specific 16S rRNA primers subsequently amplified all sequences from all individual workers of both subspecies. Attempts to amplify these sequences from eggs have failed. However, the wsp primers designed to amplify Wolbachia DNA from arthropods, including these bees, consistently produced a 0.6-kb DNA band from individual eggs, indicating that amplifiable bacterial DNA was present. Hence, the 10 bacteria could have been acquired orally from workers or from other substrates. This screening of 16S rRNA sequences from A. m. capensis and A. m. scutellata found sequences related to Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium which previously had been identified from other honeybee subspecies, as well as sequences related to Bartonella, Gluconacetobacter, Simonsiella/Neisseria, and Serratia, which have not been identified previously from honeybees.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Base Sequence
  • Bees / microbiology*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / analysis*
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Homology


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S