Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


BeeSymOverSpace Report Summary

Project ID: 704382
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BeeSymOverSpace (How to help the hive? Incidence and impact of heritable microbes on bee health)

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2018-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Honey bees provide both economic and societal benefits, from the honey and other commodities that they produce to the pollination services they provide. The loss of honey bee colonies and the current threats to their health are of considerable concern to bee-keepers and biologists alike. This project seeks to examine how a particular aspect of honey bee biology – the symbiotic microbiome – impacts upon honey bee health. Studies in other systems reveal heritable microbes as important modulators of disease susceptibility. This project will utilize the extensive network of bee samples across the US and UK to establish geographical patterns of heritable microbe presence in bees, and links to apiculture practice. It will then use state of the art transcriptomic and genomic approaches to establish the links between Arsenophonus, a heritable symbiont known in bees, and bee health. It will then combine with professional agencies responsible for bee health to use these results to modify apiculture practice to establish better bee husbandry. Aside the research science completed, the project will provide training in state of the art genomic technologies and translation from discovery to applied science. It will further transfer the training gained to the Liverpool return phase host, both in discovery science and application.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

WP1 involves the assessment of incidence of heritable symbionts and wider microbiome of bees across the USA and UK. The reporting period covers the outgoing phase of the fellowship based in the USA. Arsenophonus and Spiroplasma microbes have been detected in USA honey bees, with Arsenophonus widespread (with obvious spatial patterns, and some evidence of seasonality). A wider look at the microbiome of bees has also been completed with respect to gaining a view on the effects of apiculture on bee microbiome - this involves comparison of feral honey bees to those in apiculture. Analysis of these samples is onging.

WP2 is based around the impact that heritable symbionts have in their honeybee hosts. We have completed the genome sequence for Arsenophonus from bees, alongside its first isolation in cell free culture and formal description is ongoing, with Dr Burritt and lab members. Experimental analysis of the impact of Spiroplasma and Arsenophonus on bee survival, and also susceptibility to other pathogens (Nosema, deformed wing virus) has also been completed, and is being analysed currently. We have also completed an experiment examining how these microbes affect host immune function directly.

Overall, our work will be the first comprehensive picture of Arsenophonus and Spiroplasma in honey bees, and their impact on the host.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Culture of the Arsenophonus was achieved for the first times.The overall impact of these symbionts on bee health will be clear, and from this, modifications to husbandry practice to improve bee health and productivity can be implemented, with economic and food security benefits.

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