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Effects of pollen supply on Apis mellifera worker longevity and body weight in the presence and absence of an intact gut microbiota

Citation

Brown, Andrew et al. (2022), Effects of pollen supply on Apis mellifera worker longevity and body weight in the presence and absence of an intact gut microbiota , Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.wstqjq2p2

Abstract

Gut microbiota are known to foster pollen digestion in honey bee workers, Apis mellifera, thereby enhancing longevity and body weight gain. However, it is currently not known how longevity and body weight gain are effected when gut microbiota are reduced in bees with or without access to pollen. Here, using a hoarding cage set-up with freshly emerged summer workers, we manipulated the gut microbiota of half the bees with the antibiotic tetracycline (ABX), and left the other half untreated on a sucrose solution diet. Afterwards, all bees were assigned to either sucrose diets or sucrose plus ad libitum access to pollen (N=4 treatments, N=26 bees/treatment, N=10 replicates/treatment, N=1040 total workers). The data confirm that pollen has a positive effect on longevity and body weight in workers with an unmanipulated gut microbiota. Surprisingly, the antibiotics alone also improved the longevity and body weight of the workers fed a strictly sucrose diet, potentially explained by the reduction of harmful bacteria. However, this positive effect was always reversed in the presence of pollen, underscoring the innate value of natural microbiota on pollen digestion. In conclusion, a combination of adequate pollen supply and an intact gut microbiota appears crucial to honey bee worker health, calling for respective efforts to ensure both in managed colonies.