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Title: High royal jelly production does not impact the gut microbiome of honey bees
Abstract Background

Honey bees are not only essential for pollination services, but are also economically important as a source of hive products (e.g., honey, royal jelly, pollen, wax, and propolis) that are used as foods, cosmetics, and alternative medicines. Royal jelly is a popular honey bee product with multiple potential medicinal properties. To boost royal jelly production, a long-term genetic selection program of Italian honey bees (ITBs) in China has been performed, resulting in honey bee stocks (here referred to as RJBs) that produce an order of magnitude more royal jelly than ITBs. Although multiple studies have investigated the molecular basis of increased royal jelly yields, one factor that has not been considered is the role of honey bee-associated gut microbes.


Based on the behavioral, morphological, physiological, and neurological differences between RJBs and ITBs, we predicted that the gut microbiome composition of RJBs bees would differ from ITBs. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the bacterial composition of RJB and ITB workers from an urban location and RJBs from a rural location in China. Based on 16S rRNA gene profiling, we did not find any evidence that RJBs possess a unique bacterial gut community when compared to ITBs. However, we observed differences between honey bees from the urban versus rural sites.


Our results suggest that the environmental factors rather than stock differences are more important in shaping the bacterial composition in honey bee guts. Further studies are needed to investigate if the observed differences in relative abundance of taxa between the urban and rural bees correspond to distinct functional capabilities that impact honey bee health. Because the lifestyle, diet, and other environmental variables are different in rural and urban areas, controlled studies are needed to determine which of these factors are responsible for the observed differences in gut bacterial composition between urban and rural honeybees.

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Publisher / Repository:
Springer Science + Business Media
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Journal Name:
Animal Microbiome
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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