Growing evidence reveals strong overlap between microbiomes of flowers and bees, suggesting that flowers are hubs of microbial transmission. Whether floral transmission is the main driver of bee microbiome assembly, and whether functional importance of florally sourced microbes shapes bee foraging decisions are intriguing questions that remain unanswered. We suggest that interaction network properties, such as nestedness, connectedness, and modularity, as well as specialization patterns can predict potential transmission routes of microbes between hosts. Yet microbial filtering by plant and bee hosts determines realized microbial niches. Functionally, shared floral microbes can provide benefits for bees by enhancing nutritional quality, detoxification, and disintegration of pollen. Flower microbes can also alter the attractiveness of floral resources. Together, these mechanisms may affect the structure of the flower-bee interaction network.
Keller, A., Q. S. McFrederick, P. Dharampal, S. Steffan, B. N. Danforth, and S. D. Leonhardt (2021) ”(More than) Hitchhikers through the network: The shared micro- biome of bees and flowers”. Current Opinion in Insect Science vol. 44: Special issue ”The floral microbiome and consequences on pollination, plant reproduction and insect behavior” pp. 8–15