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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » Vegetable Crops Research » Research » Research Project #431626

Research Project: Investigations of Bee-Microbe Symbioses in U.S. Cranberries

Location: Vegetable Crops Research

Project Number: 5090-21220-004-03-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 15, 2016
End Date: Dec 31, 2018

Objective:
Broadly, this work aims to protect U.S. crops by protecting the diversity and abundance of its native pollinators. Protection of native bee species necessarily requires the protection of their symbionts. This project will characterize the 1) identities and 2) symbiotic roles of the predominant microbes associated with bee pollen-provisions in Wisconsin cranberries.

Approach:
To accomplish this, we first need to understand which microbial groups (within bee pollen) are functionally important for larval bee growth. Then we need to isolate which stressors (heat-spikes, fungicide residues in pollen) affect these microbes the most. Finally, and most importantly, we will assay how such effects may impact the larvae of select native bee fauna (i.e., those bees commonly found in Wisconsin cranberry systems). We will identify the species and/or genera that are true symbionts (as opposed to ‘tourist’ microbes), and how agricultural practices such as fungicide use during bloom are impacting the bees. This project will involve the culturing of a variety of bee species (solitary and social species), as well as the bacterial and fungal associates of their pollen-provisions. Microbial metagenomics and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) techniques will be employed for this aspect of the work. We will be testing how stressors such as heat-spikes and fungicides impact both the microbiome of the pollen, as well as the larval bees. Culturing of multiple bee species under different treatment regimens will be used to generate samples that reveal how the microbial symbionts and bee larvae performed after exposure to stressors. Landscape-scale assessments of bee exposure to stressors will be undertaken.