Routes Of Acquisition Of The Gut Microbiota Of The Honey Bee Apis Mellifera
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Studies of newly emerged Apis mellifera worker bees have demonstrated that their guts are colonized by a consistent core microbiota within several days of eclosure. We conducted experiments aimed at illuminating the transmission routes and spatiotemporal colonization dynamics of this microbiota. Experimental groups of newly emerged workers were maintained in cup cages and exposed to different potential transmission sources. Colonization patterns were evaluated using quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) to assess community sizes and using deep sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons to assess community composition. In addition, we monitored the establishment of the ileum and rectum communities within workers sampled over time from natural hive conditions. The study verified that workers initially lack gut bacteria and gain large characteristic communities in the ileum and rectum within 4 to 6 days within hives. Typical communities, resembling those of workers within hives, were established in the presence of nurse workers or nurse worker fecal material, and atypical communities of noncore or highly skewed compositions were established when workers were exposed only to oral trophallaxis or hive components (comb, honey, bee bread). The core species of Gram-negative bacteria, Snodgrassella alvi, Gilliamella apicola, and Frischella perrara, were dependent on the presence of nurses or hindgut material, whereas some Gram-positive species were more often transferred through exposure to hive components. These results indicate aspects of the colony life cycle and behavior that are key to the propagation of the characteristic honey bee gut microbiota.