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Decker LE, San Juan PA, Warren ML, Duckworth CE, Gao C, Fukami T (2022) Higher variability in fungi compared to bacteria in the foraging honey bee gut. Microb Ecol.

Year Published: 2022

Along with bacteria, fungi can represent a significant component of animal- and plant-associated microbial communities. However, we have only begun to describe these fungi, much less examine their effects on most animals and plants. Bacteria associated with the honey bee, Apis mellifera, have been well characterized across different regions of the gut. The mid- and hindgut of foraging bees house a deterministic set of core species that affect host health, whereas the crop, or the honey stomach, harbors a more diverse set of bacteria that is highly variable in composition among individual bees. Whether this contrast between the two regions of the gut also applies to fungi remains unclear despite their potential influence on host health. In honey bees caught foraging at four sites across the San Francisco Peninsula of California, we found that fungi were less distinct in species composition between the crop and the mid- and hindgut than bacteria. Unlike bacteria, fungi varied substantially in species composition throughout the honey bee gut, and much of this variation could be predicted by the location where we collected the bees. These observations suggest that fungi may be transient passengers and unimportant as gut symbionts. However, our findings also indicate that honey bees could be vectors of infectious plant diseases as many of the fungi we found in the honey bee gut are recognized as plant pathogens. [link to publication]