Project Number: 6050-21000-016-015-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement
Start Date: Jan 1, 2021
End Date: Dec 31, 2023
The proposed work aims to characterize microalgae for its nutritional and functional properties in bees, and to develop augmented strains as edible vaccines for the delivery of feed-based therapeutics. The objectives are as follows: Objective 1: Conduct a holistic assessment of the utility of microalgae to improve individual bee health. Objective 2: Evaluate the use of a microalgae diet to improve bee health and sustainability of colonies involved in commercial pollination and queen production. Objective 3: Test the potential of engineered microalgae to augment honey bee nutrition, immune function, and pathogen resistance.
We hypothesize that microalgae, due to biochemical similarities to pollen and amenability to synthetic biology approaches, has significant potential to improve honey bee nutrition, microbiome health, and pathogen resistance. We provide a framework to test this hypothesis with the following objectives: Objective 1: Conduct a holistic assessment of the utility of microalgae to improve individual bee health. Data collected in Objective 1 will provide fundamental insights into the physiological responses of individual bees to microalgae feed, which is critical for the development of efficacious supplemental nutrition to improve bee health. Objective 2: Evaluate the use of microalgae feed to improve bee health and the sustainability of colonies involved in commercial pollination and queen production. Objective 2 will aim to translate individual bee data to effects at the colony level in commercial beekeeping environments. Managed colonies will undergo microalgae feeding regimens before their relocation for almond pollination when colony-size is a determinant for meeting crop pollination service contracts. Simultaneous tests in the laboratory and in a beekeeping operation focused on commercial queen bee production will evaluate the impact of spirulina nutrition on queen quality and health. The nutritional rearing environment and the quality of queens produced by these operations can have profound effects on colony productivity, disease prevalence, and overwinter survival. Therefore, nutritional intervention to augment queen quality is an additional approach that we will take towards improving colony productivity and consequent crop pollination. Objective 3: Test the potential synthetic biology to engineer microalgae feed for augmented honey bee nutrition, immune function, and pathogen resistance. Data collected for this aim will result in engineering microalgae for the delivery of feed-based therapeutics.