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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Location: Bee Research Laboratory

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
This study proposes to address the biology of one of the most important agricultural species by providing an inclusive reference metagenomic dataset for the honey bee microbiota across different life stages, geography and disease states. ARS is interested in defining and regulating microbes that impact honey bee colony health. The Cooperator is interested in the physiological impacts of microbes on insects and on determining genomic traits in microbes that impact insect-microbe interactions and their affects on insect nutrition. The genomic resources from this project will be used by a large community of basic and applied investigators. This project will contribute valuable information for efforts to safeguard honey bee health.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
ARS and the Cooperator will generate this genomic resource by staging controlled experiments, soliciting bees, and isolating genetic material for 1) high-throughput DNA sequencing, 2) comparisons with existing metagenomic databases and resources from honey bees, and 3) follow-up assays of microbial associations with and impacts on healthy and diseased bees. The ARS Bee Research Laboratory will be responsible for sample collection and purification in order to develop a combined pool of DNA and RNA for genomic analyses. We will also process two distinct honey bee samples for Roche GS-FLX Titanium sequencing runs and provide expertise to the cooperator on honey bee physiology and pathology.

3. Progress Report:
The goal is to determine the direct and indirect effects of gut bacteria on honey bee and bumble bee health. In the current year, controlled experiments were enacted to measure the health impacts and parasite loads of honey bees challenged with the parasite Nosema ceranae in combination with native gut bacteria found in worker bees. Impacts on nosema infection were minor and new challenges are underway to systematically infect bees with other parasites and bacteria to determine health impacts. In parallel, healthy bees were analyzed to determine the gut bacteria found in worker bees and compare this across populations (Maryland, Arizona, Connecticut). A surprisingly stable community of gut bacteria suggests that these bacteria are important in bee nutrition or parasite avoidance. Minor impacts on worker longevity can lead to bee colony declines and it is important to find management schemes that maintain bees as well as the microbes that benefit their health.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 08/20/2017
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