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  1. Despite the increasingly documented occurrence of individual specialization, the relationship between individual consumer interactions and diet-related microbial communities in wild populations is still unclear. Using data from nests of the bee Ceratina australensis from three different wild populations, we combine metabarcoding and network approaches to explore the existence of individual variation in resource use within and across populations, and whether dietary specialization affects the richness of pollen-associated microbes. We reveal the existence of marked dietary specialization. In the most specialized population, we also show that individuals' diet breadth was positively related to the richness of fungi, but not bacteria. Overall,more »individual specialization appeared to have a weak or negligible effect on the microbial richness of nests, suggesting that different mechanisms beyond environmental transmission may be at play regarding microbial acquisition in wild bees.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 25, 2023
  2. Cavanaugh, Colleen M. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Diet and gut microbiomes are intricately linked on both short and long timescales. Changes in diet can alter the microbiome, while microbes in turn allow hosts to access novel diets. Bees are wasps that switched to a vegetarian lifestyle, and the vast majority of bees feed on pollen and nectar. Some stingless bee species, however, also collect carrion, and a few have fully reverted to a necrophagous lifestyle, relying on carrion for protein and forgoing flower visitation altogether. These “vulture” bees belong to the corbiculate apid clade, which is known for its ancient association with a small group ofmore »core microbiome phylotypes. Here, we investigate the vulture bee microbiome, along with closely related facultatively necrophagous and obligately pollinivorous species, to understand how these diets interact with microbiome structure. Via deep sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene and subsequent community analyses, we find that vulture bees have lost some core microbes, retained others, and entered into novel associations with acidophilic microbes found in the environment and on carrion. The abundance of acidophilic bacteria suggests that an acidic gut is important for vulture bee nutrition and health, as has been found in other carrion-feeding animals. Facultatively necrophagous bees have more variable microbiomes than strictly pollinivorous bees, suggesting that bee diet may interact with microbiomes on both short and long timescales. Further study of vulture bees promises to provide rich insights into the role of the microbiome in extreme diet switches. IMPORTANCE When asked where to find bees, people often picture fields of wildflowers. While true for almost all species, there is a group of specialized bees, also known as the vulture bees, that instead can be found slicing chunks of meat from carcasses in tropical rainforests. In this study, researchers compared the microbiomes of closely related bees that live in the same region but vary in their dietary lifestyles: some exclusively consume pollen and nectar, others exclusively depend on carrion for their protein, and some consume all of the above. Researchers found that vulture bees lost some ancestral “core” microbes, retained others, and entered into novel associations with acidophilic microbes, which have similarly been found in other carrion-feeding animals such as vultures, these bees’ namesake. This research expands our understanding of how diet interacts with microbiomes on both short and long timescales in one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 21, 2022
  3. Abstract Floral nectar, an important resource for pollinators, is inhabited by microbes such as yeasts and bacteria, which have been shown to influence pollinator preference. Dynamic and complex plant-pollinator-microbe interactions are likely to be affected by a rapidly changing climate, as each player has their own optimal growth temperatures and phenological responses to environmental triggers, such as temperature. To understand how warming due to climate change is influencing nectar microbial communities, we incubated a natural nectar microbial community at different temperatures and assessed the subsequent nectar chemistry and preference of the common eastern bumble bee, Bombus impatiens . The microbialmore »community in floral nectar is often species-poor, and the cultured Brassica rapa nectar community was dominated by the bacterium Fructobacillus . Temperature increased the abundance of bacteria in the warmer treatment. Bumble bees preferred nectar inoculated with microbes, but only at the lower, ambient temperature. Warming therefore induced an increase in bacterial abundance which altered nectar sugars and led to significant differences in pollinator preference.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2022
  4. Bees collect pollen from flowers for their offspring, and by doing so contribute critical pollination services for our crops and ecosystems. Unlike many managed bee species, wild bees are thought to obtain much of their microbiome from the environment. However, we know surprisingly little about what plant species bees visit and the microbes associated with the collected pollen. Here, we addressed the hypothesis that the pollen and microbial components of bee diets would change across the range of the bee, by amplicon sequencing pollen provisions of a widespread small carpenter bee, Ceratina calcarata, across three populations. Ceratina calcarata was foundmore »to use a diversity of floral resources across its range, but the bacterial genera associated with pollen provisions were very consistent. Acinetobacter, Erwinia, Lactobacillus, Sodalis, Sphingomonas and Wolbachia were among the top ten bacterial genera across all sites. Ceratina calcarata uses both raspberry (Rubus) and sumac (Rhus) stems as nesting substrates, however nests within these plants showed no preference for host plant pollen. Significant correlations in plant and bacterial co-occurrence differed between sites, indicating that many of the most common bacterial genera have either regional or transitory floral associations. This range-wide study suggests microbes present in brood provisions are conserved within a bee species, rather than mediated by climate or pollen composition. Moving forward, this has important implications for how these core bacteria affect larval health and whether these functions vary across space and diet. These data increase our understanding of how pollinators interact with and adjust to their changing environment.« less
  5. Mounting evidence suggests that microbes found in the pollen provisions of wild and solitary bees are important drivers of larval development. As these microbes are also known to be transmitted via the environment, most likely from flowers, the diet breadth of a bee may affect the diversity and identity of the microbes that occur in its pollen provisions. Here, we tested the hypothesis that, due to the importance of floral transmission of microbes, diet breadth affects pollen provision microbial community composition. We collected pollen provisions at four sites from the polylectic bee Osmia lignaria and the oligolectic bee Osmia ribifloris.more »We used high-throughput sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene to characterize the bacteria found in these provisions. We found minimal overlap in the specific bacterial variants in pollen provisions across the host species, even when the bees were constrained to foraging from the same flowers in cages at one site. Similarly, there was minimal overlap in the specific bacterial variants across sites, even within the same host species. Together, these findings highlight the importance of environmental transmission and host specific sorting influenced by diet breadth for microbes found in pollen provisions. Future studies addressing the functional consequences of this filtering, along with tests for differences between more species of oligoletic and polylectic bees will provide rich insights into the microbial ecology of solitary bees.« less
  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023