Rearing and foraging affects bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) gut microbiota

Lindsay K. Newbold, Anna E. Oliver, Leah Cuthbertson, Sarah Walkington, Hyun S. Gweon, Matthew S. Heard, Christopher J. van der Gast

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Bumblebees are ecologically and economically important as pollinators of crop and wild plants, especially in temperate systems. Species, such as the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), are reared commercially to pollinate high value crops. Their highly specific gut microbiota, characterised by low diversity, may affect nutrition and immunity and are likely to be important for fitness and colony health. However, little is known about how environmental factors affect bacterial community structure. We analyzed the gut microbiota from three groups of worker bumblebees (B. terrestris) from distinct colonies that varied in rearing and foraging characteristics: commercially reared with restricted foraging (RR); commercially reared with outside foraging (RF); and wild-caught workers (W). Contrary to previous studies, which indicate that bacterial communities are highly conserved across workers, we found that RF individuals had an intermediate community structure compared to RR and W types. Further, this was shaped by differences in the abundances of common OTUs and the diversity of rare OTUs present which we propose results from an increase in the variety of carbohydrates obtained through foraging.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-641
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology Reports
Issue number4
Early online date21 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015

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