Named Bacteria Help Honey Bee Larvae Thrive
Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have identified a bacterium that
appears to give honey bee larvae a better chance of surviving to become
biologist Vanessa Corby-Harris and microbial ecologist Kirk E. Anderson at the
Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, have named the new species
Parasaccharibacter apium. The bee research center is part of the Agricultural
Research Service, USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.
bees have been under nearly constant and growing pressures from a whole host of
stressors—diseases, poor nutrition, sublethal effects of pesticides and many
others, especially for the last 30 years. It has been known that a number of
different bacteria live within adult bees and in the hive, and scientists have
been studying if and how these bacteria help deal with some of these
is the first bacteria found to offer a benefit to bee larvae. In laboratory
experiments, bee larvae fed P. apium had about an average of 30 percent better
survival compared to those fed a sterile control.
P. apium confers this survival advantage to the larvae is not yet known,
according to Corby-Harris.
far, the researchers have found P. apium only in honey bees and their hives.
While P. apium found in honey bee hives is a distinct and new species from any
previously identified, it has very close, naturally occurring relatives found in
the nectar of many flowers, including cactus flowers, daisies, thistles and
genome of P. apium has been sequenced and they are beginning to dissect the
functional properties that distinguish flower-living Acetobacteraceaefrom those
that have coevolved with the honey bee hive. Pinpointing these ecological
differences will be key to understanding the function of P. apium in honey bee
hives, Anderson explained.
minimal sampling effort, P. apium was found in nearly every one of the healthy
managed bee colonies examined by the researchers. A future study will explore
the abundance of P. apium in weak or struggling managed bee colonies.
the mechanism by which the bacteria benefit the larvae remains to be studied,
the importance is clear enough that Corby-Harris and Anderson are already field
testing its use along with a number of other bacteria that may benefit the
pollination and honey-production industry as potential management tools.
more about this research in the May 2015 issue of AgResearch magazine.