Flowers & Wild Bees Share Microbes

A team of researchers, including several from the University of California, Riverside, has found that flowers are a hot spot of transmission of bacteria that end up in the microbiome of wild bees. The research, which was pubished onine on September 3, 2016 in the journal Microbial Ecology, shows, for the first time, that multiple flower and wild bee species share several of the same types of bacteria. Bees therefore obtain both food and bacteria from flowers. These bacteria may play important roles in bee health. The new article is titled "Flowers and Wild Megachilid Bees Share Microbes." The research on the wild bee microbiome, or the community of microorganisms that live in the bee, follows similar work on the human microbiome that has surged in popularity in the past decade. There has been research on the microbiome of honeybees and bumblebees, but very little on wild bees. While wild bees don't get the same amount of attention as honey bees or bumblebees, they are a critical piece of the pollination puzzle. Wild bees could become more important because of the decline in numbers of honey bees due to colony collapse disorder, which has resulted in the loss of more than 10 million hives in the past decade. Currently, honey bees are relied on for almost all commercial pollination needs. “We are putting all our pollination needs in one basket," said Quinn McFrederick, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Entomology at UC Riverside, who is the lead author of the paper. "What if this collapses?” Like honey bees, wild bees pollinate crops, but there is no way to effectively manage them so they can be shipped to a site, as honeybees are, to pollinate a specific crop, such as almond trees in central California.
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