There is increasing evidence that honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) can adapt naturally to survive Varroa destructor, the primary cause of colony mortality world-wide. Most of the adaptive traits of naturally varroa-surviving honeybees concern varroa reproduction. Here we investigate whether factors in the honeybee metagenome also contribute to this survival. The quantitative and qualitative composition of the bacterial and viral metagenome fluctuated greatly during the active season, but with little overall difference between varroa-surviving and varroa-susceptible colonies. The main exceptions were Bartonella apis and sacbrood virus, particularly during early spring and autumn. Bombella apis was also strongly associated with early and late season, though equally for all colonies. All three affect colony protein management and metabolism. Lake Sinai virus was more abundant in varroa-surviving colonies during the summer. Lake Sinai virus and deformed wing virus also showed a tendency towards seasonal genetic change, but without any distinction between varroa-surviving and varroa-susceptible colonies. Whether the changes in these taxa contribute to survival or reflect demographic differences between the colonies (or both) remains unclear.
© 2021. The Author(s).