Mar 17, 2015
The honey bee, the world's most important agricultural pollinator, relies exclusively on plant-derived foods for nutrition. Nectar and pollen collected by honey bees are processed and matured within the nest through the activities of honey bee-derived microbes and enzymes. In order to better understand the contribution of the microbial community to food processing in the honey bee, we generated a metatranscriptome of the honey bee gut microbiome. The function of the microbial community in the honey bee, as revealed by metatranscriptome sequencing, resembles that of other animal guts and food-processing environments. We identified three major bacterial classes that are active in the gut (γ-Proteobacteria, Bacilli and Actinobacteria), all of which are predicted to participate in the breakdown of complex macromolecules (e.g. polysaccharides and polypeptides), the fermentation of component parts of these macromolecules, and the generation of various fermentation products, such as short-chain fatty acids and alcohol. The ability of the microbial community to metabolize these carbon-rich food sources was confirmed through the use of community-level physiological profiling. Collectively, these findings suggest that the gut microflora of the honey bee harbours bacterial members with unique roles, which ultimately can contribute to the processing of plant-derived food for colonies. © 2014 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.