Honeybee health, diet and the gut microbiome

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: School of Biological Sciences

Abstract

Pollination services provided by bees are crucial for the continued security of our food supply. Despite their importance, global populations of pollinators have suffered a dramatic decline in recent years. The causes of this are complex and require further study. At the same time there has been an increase in the detection of pathogens and infectious disease in honeybee colonies.

While unable to develop antibodies, honeybees, like many insects, possess an innate immunity and respond to infection by the production of antimicrobial compounds and specific proteins. The immune response pathways are not fully understood, but recent studies have shown a link between the diversity of plant species that bees collect pollen from and the health of a hive. In addition, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the importance of symbiotic gut bacteria in determining the health of a host organism, and that bacterial communities can be linked to host diet.

Using barcoding and next generation sequencing techniques, we will assess the species diversity of pollen collected by honeybees across multiple landscapes, and ask how diversity of diet impacts on honeybee colony health and immune responses to infection. From the colonies assessed, we will also screen the honeybee gut microbiome to determine if this is an important factor in the susceptibility of colonies to infection. Data collected from the field will be complemented by experiments testing the impact of diet and gut microbiome on the health, development and innate immune response of bees.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011208/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1618710 Studentship BB/M011208/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019 Calum Bridson
 
Description Our research has shown that land use changes can influence the gut bacterial communities of honeybees, with potential effects on host health. Meanwhile, the genotype of the individual honeybee does not influence their microbial community, contrary to results from other systems. There is also a lot more variation within a hive than between hives in the gut community composition.

Other projects within the award are still ongoing.
Exploitation Route The results can help to inform about how land use changes may impact pollinators, and potentially other insects. The findings highlight the consequences of making changes to how land is used, and the human impacts on our environment.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

 
Description Characterising the Honeybee Gut Microbiome in the North West 
Organisation University of Salford
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collected the samples; dissected the honeybee guts; extracted the DNA; assisted with library preparation; analysed the data.
Collaborator Contribution Provided sequencing facilities and expertise. Also, gave some advise on data analysis.
Impact None.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Characterising the maternal and temperature effects on the cockroach (Diploptera punctata) microbiome 
Organisation Manchester Metropolitan University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dissection and DNA extraction from the cockroaches, as well as metabarcode sequencing of the bacterial microbiome. Also the analysis of the data.
Collaborator Contribution Initial invovlement in the experimental design and experimental set-up, as well as characterising the methylation and metabolic rate of the cockroaches.
Impact None as of yet, project on-going.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Characterising the maternal and temperature effects on the cockroach (Diploptera punctata) microbiome 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dissection and DNA extraction from the cockroaches, as well as metabarcode sequencing of the bacterial microbiome. Also the analysis of the data.
Collaborator Contribution Initial invovlement in the experimental design and experimental set-up, as well as characterising the methylation and metabolic rate of the cockroaches.
Impact None as of yet, project on-going.
Start Year 2018