Honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony health and pathogen composition in migratory beekeeping operations involved in California almond pollination.
ABSTRACT: Honey bees are important pollinators of agricultural crops. Pathogens and other factors have been implicated in high annual losses of honey bee colonies in North America and some European countries. To further investigate the relationship between multiple factors, including pathogen prevalence and abundance and colony health, we monitored commercially managed migratory honey bee colonies involved in California almond pollination in 2014. At each sampling event, honey bee colony health was assessed, using colony population size as a proxy for health, and the prevalence and abundance of seven honey bee pathogens was evaluated using PCR and quantitative PCR, respectively. In this sample cohort, pathogen prevalence and abundance did not correlate with colony health, but did correlate with the date of sampling. In general, pathogen prevalence (i.e., the number of specific pathogens harbored within a colony) was lower early in the year (January-March) and was greater in the summer, with peak prevalence occurring in June. Pathogen abundance in individual honey bee colonies varied throughout the year and was strongly associated with the sampling date, and was influenced by beekeeping operation, colony health, and mite infestation level. Together, data from this and other observational cohort studies that monitor individual honey bee colonies and precisely account for sampling date (i.e., day of year) will lead to a better understanding of the influence of pathogens on colony mortality and the effects of other factors on these associations.
Project description:Honey bees are important pollinators of agricultural crops. Since 2006, US beekeepers have experienced high annual honey bee colony losses, which may be attributed to multiple abiotic and biotic factors, including pathogens. However, the relative importance of these factors has not been fully elucidated. To identify the most prevalent pathogens and investigate the relationship between colony strength and health, we assessed pathogen occurrence, prevalence, and abundance in Western US honey bee colonies involved in almond pollination. The most prevalent pathogens were Black queen cell virus (BQCV), Lake Sinai virus 2 (LSV2), Sacbrood virus (SBV), <i>Nosema ceranae</i>, and trypanosomatids. Our results indicated that pathogen prevalence and abundance were associated with both sampling date and beekeeping operation, that prevalence was highest in honey bee samples obtained immediately after almond pollination, and that weak colonies had a greater mean pathogen prevalence than strong colonies.
Project description:Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are important pollinators of plants, including those that produce nut, fruit, and vegetable crops. Therefore, high annual losses of managed honey bee colonies in the United States and many other countries threaten global agriculture. Honey bee colony deaths have been associated with multiple abiotic and biotic factors, including pathogens, but the impact of virus infections on honey bee colony population size and survival are not well understood. To further investigate seasonal patterns of pathogen presence and abundance and the impact of viruses on honey bee colony health, commercially managed colonies involved in the 2016 California almond pollination event were monitored for one year. At each sample date, colony health and pathogen burden were assessed. Data from this 50-colony cohort study illustrate the dynamic nature of honey bee colony health and the temporal patterns of virus infection. Black queen cell virus, deformed wing virus, sacbrood virus, and the Lake Sinai viruses were the most readily detected viruses in honey bee samples obtained throughout the year. Analyses of virus prevalence and abundance revealed pathogen-specific trends including the overall increase in deformed wing virus abundance from summer to fall, while the levels of Lake Sinai virus 2 (LSV2) decreased over the same time period. Though virus prevalence and abundance varied in individual colonies, analyses of the overall trends reveal correlation with sample date. Total virus abundance increased from November 2015 (post-honey harvest) to the end of the almond pollination event in March 2016, which coincides with spring increase in colony population size. Peak total virus abundance occurred in late fall (August and October 2016), which correlated with the time period when the majority of colonies died. Honey bee colonies with larger populations harbored less LSV2 than weaker colonies with smaller populations, suggesting an inverse relationship between colony health and LSV2 abundance. Together, data from this and other longitudinal studies at the colony level are forming a better understanding of the impact of viruses on honey bee colony losses.
Project description:Recent losses of honey bee colonies have led to increased interest in the microbial communities that are associated with these important pollinators. A critical function that bacteria perform for their honey bee hosts, but one that is poorly understood, is the transformation of worker-collected pollen into bee bread, a nutritious food product that can be stored for long periods in colonies. We used 16S rRNA pyrosequencing to comprehensively characterize in genetically diverse and genetically uniform colonies the active bacterial communities that are found on honey bees, in their digestive tracts, and in bee bread. This method provided insights that have not been revealed by past studies into the content and benefits of honey bee-associated microbial communities. Colony microbiotas differed substantially between sampling environments and were dominated by several anaerobic bacterial genera never before associated with honey bees, but renowned for their use by humans to ferment food. Colonies with genetically diverse populations of workers, a result of the highly promiscuous mating behavior of queens, benefited from greater microbial diversity, reduced pathogen loads, and increased abundance of putatively helpful bacteria, particularly species from the potentially probiotic genus Bifidobacterium. Across all colonies, Bifidobacterium activity was negatively correlated with the activity of genera that include pathogenic microbes; this relationship suggests a possible target for understanding whether microbes provide protective benefits to honey bees. Within-colony diversity shapes microbiotas associated with honey bees in ways that may have important repercussions for colony function and health. Our findings illuminate the importance of honey bee-bacteria symbioses and examine their intersection with nutrition, pathogen load, and genetic diversity, factors that are considered key to understanding honey bee decline.
Project description:Recent losses in honey bee colonies are unusual in their severity, geographical distribution, and, in some cases, failure to present recognized characteristics of known disease. Domesticated honey bees face numerous pests and pathogens, tempting hypotheses that colony collapses arise from exposure to new or resurgent pathogens. Here we explore the incidence and abundance of currently known honey bee pathogens in colonies suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), otherwise weak colonies, and strong colonies from across the United States. Although pathogen identities differed between the eastern and western United States, there was a greater incidence and abundance of pathogens in CCD colonies. Pathogen loads were highly covariant in CCD but not control hives, suggesting that