Comparison of Varroa destructor and Worker Honeybee Microbiota Within Hives Indicates Shared Bacteria

The ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor is a major pest of the honeybee Apis mellifera. In a previous study, bacteria were found in the guts of mites collected from winter beehive debris and were identified using Sanger sequencing of their 16S rRNA genes. In this study, community comparison and diversity analyses were performed to examine the microbiota of honeybees and mites at the population level. The microbiota of the mites and honeybees in 26 colonies in seven apiaries in Czechia was studied. Between 10 and 50 Varroa females were collected from the bottom board, and 10 worker bees were removed from the peripheral comb of the same beehive. Both bees and mites were surface sterilized. Analysis of the 16S rRNA gene libraries revealed significant differences in the Varroa and honeybee microbiota. The Varroa microbiota was less diverse than was the honeybee microbiota, and the relative abundances of bacterial taxa in the mite and bee microbiota differed. The Varroa mites, but not the honeybees, were found to be inhabited byDiplorickettsia. The relative abundance of ArsenophonusMorganellaSpiroplasmaEnterococcus, and Pseudomonas was higher in Varroa than in honeybees, and the Diplorickettsia symbiont detected in this study is specific to Varroa mites. The results demonstrated that there are shared bacteria between Varroa and honeybee populations but that these bacteria occur in different relative proportions in the honeybee and mite bacteriomes. These results support the suggestion of bacterial transfer via mites, although only some of the transferred bacteria may be harmful.


Hubert J, Kamler M, Nesvorna M, Ledvinka O, Kopecky J, Erban T. 2016. Comparison of Varroa destructor and Worker Honeybee Microbiota Within Hives Indicates Shared Bacteria. Microbial Ecology.
Supported by

Ricola Foundation


University of Bern

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