Submitted to: Trends in Microbiology
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/30/2011
Publication Date: 12/15/2011
Citation: Evans, J.D., Schwarz, R.S. 2011. Bees brought to their knees: Microbes affecting honey bee health. Trends in Microbiology. 19(12):614-620.
Technical Abstract: The biology and health of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, has been of interest to human societies since the advent of beekeeping. Descriptive scientific research on pathogens affecting honey bees have been published for nearly a century, but it wasn’t until the recent outbreak of heavy colony losses in the United States of America and some parts of Europe, termed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), that research using modern molecular technology began in earnest. Recent advances provide tools for tackling honey bee microbes, including genome sequencing, reverse genetics, the identification of pathogen molecular markers, and temporal analysis of colonies using next-generation deep sequencing to monitor microbial community dynamics. While a clear understanding of what causes CCD has yet to emerge, new microbial discoveries and avenues to better understand how bees cope with the variety of challenges they currently face are aiding the field. Here we review current known honey bee microbes and highlight areas of active research along with important areas where research still lags. Detailed studies of honey bee-pathogen dynamics will help efforts to keep this important pollinator healthy and will give general insights into both beneficial and harmful microbes confronting a highly social insect.