Gut microbial communities of social bees

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2016 Jun;14(6):374-84. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro.2016.43. Epub 2016 May 3.


The gut microbiota can have profound effects on hosts, but the study of these relationships in humans is challenging. The specialized gut microbial community of honey bees is similar to the mammalian microbiota, as both are mostly composed of host-adapted, facultatively anaerobic and microaerophilic bacteria. However, the microbial community of the bee gut is far simpler than the mammalian microbiota, being dominated by only nine bacterial species clusters that are specific to bees and that are transmitted through social interactions between individuals. Recent developments, which include the discovery of extensive strain-level variation, evidence of protective and nutritional functions, and reports of eco-physiological or disease-associated perturbations to the microbial community, have drawn attention to the role of the microbiota in bee health and its potential as a model for studying the ecology and evolution of gut symbionts.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Bartonella / genetics
  • Bartonella / isolation & purification
  • Bartonella / metabolism
  • Bees / anatomy & histology
  • Bees / growth & development
  • Bees / microbiology*
  • Bees / physiology
  • Biological Evolution
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / physiology
  • Host Specificity
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus / genetics
  • Lactobacillus / isolation & purification
  • Lactobacillus / metabolism
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Symbiosis


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S