Microbial Diversity Associated with the Pollen Stores of Captive-Bred Bumble Bee Colonies

Insects. 2020 Apr 16;11(4):250. doi: 10.3390/insects11040250.


The pollen stores of bumble bees host diverse microbiota that influence overall colony fitness. Yet, the taxonomic identity of these symbiotic microbes is relatively unknown. In this descriptive study, we characterized the microbial community of pollen provisions within captive-bred bumble bee hives obtained from two commercial suppliers located in North America. Findings from 16S rRNA and ITS gene-based analyses revealed that pollen provisions from the captive-bred hives shared several microbial taxa that have been previously detected among wild populations. While diverse microbes across phyla Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, and Ascomycota were detected in all commercial hives, significant differences were detected at finer-scale taxonomic resolution based on the supplier source. The causative agent of chalkbrood disease in honey bees, Ascosphaera apis, was detected in all hives obtained from one supplier source, although none of the hives showed symptoms of infection. The shared core microbiota across both commercial supplier sources consisted of two ubiquitous bee-associated groups, Lactobacillus and Wickerhamiella/Starmerella clade yeasts that potentially contribute to the beneficial function of the microbiome of bumble bee pollen provisions.

Keywords: 16S rRNA gene; ITS gene; bee–microbe symbioses; microbiome; pollen provisions.