The gut of the European honeybee Apis mellifera is the site of exposure to multiple stressors, such as pathogens and ingested chemicals. Therefore, the gut microbiota, which contributes to host homeostasis, may be altered by these stressors. The abundance of major bacterial taxa in the gut was evaluated in response to infection with the intestinal parasite Nosema ceranae or chronic exposure to low doses of the neurotoxic insecticides coumaphos, fipronil, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid. Experiments were performed under laboratory conditions on adult workers collected from hives in February (winter bees) and July (summer bees) and revealed season-dependent changes in the bacterial community composition. N. ceranae and a lethal fipronil treatment increased the relative abundance of both Gilliamella apicola and Snodgrassella alvi in surviving winter honeybees. The parasite and a sublethal exposure to all insecticides decreased the abundance of Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp. regardless of the season. The similar effects induced by insecticides belonging to distinct molecular families suggested a shared and indirect mode of action on the gut microbiota, possibly through aspecific alterations in gut homeostasis. These results demonstrate that infection and chronic exposure to low concentrations of insecticides may affect the honeybee holobiont.
Keywords: dysbiosis; honeybee microbiota; insecticides; parasite.