Bee performance and well-being strongly depend on access to sufficient and appropriate resources, in particular pollen and nectar of flowers, which constitute the major basis of bee nutrition. Pollen-derived microbes appear to play an important but still little explored role in the plant pollen–bee interaction dynamics, e.g. through affecting quantities and ratios of important nutrients. To better understand how microbes in pollen collected by bees may affect larval health through nutrition, we investigated correlations between the floral, bacterial and nutritional composition of larval provisions and the gut bacterial communities of the solitary megachilid bee Osmia bicornis. Our study reveals correlations between the nutritional quality of pollen provisions and the complete bacterial community as well as individual members of both pollen provisions and bee guts. In particular pollen fatty acid profiles appear to interact with specific members of the pollen bacterial community, indicating that pollen-derived bacteria may play an important role in fatty acid provisioning. As increasing evidence suggests a strong effect of dietary fatty acids on bee performance, future work should address how the observed interactions between specific fatty acids and the bacterial community in larval provisions relate to health in O. bicornis.
by Sara Diana Leonhardt, Birte Peters and Alexander Keller