A trio of Indiana University researchers identified a specific bacterial microbe that protects bees from fungal infection, a finding that could have implications for food security and the agricultural industry.
In the research published by the American Society for Microbiology, the scientists found that Bombella apis, a microbe found in honey, pollen and key colony environments, suppressed the growth of two insect fungal pathogens.
“We had previously known a fair amount about the honey bee worker gut microbiome and how it may protect from bacterial disease,” associate professor of biology and senior study author Irene Newton told IU. “But the microbiome of the developing larvae and queens is less well understood.”
The finding could significantly alter what methods bee keepers use to protect the hives.
Bombella apis could protect bees from pathogens, but the microbes themselves are sensitive to antibiotics like tetracycline. Using antibiotics to help bees could actually make bees more sensitive to fungal infection.
The researchers said the next step is to identify the antifungal molecule itself.