U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

Origin and Effect of Alpha 2.2 Acetobacteraceae in Honey Bee Larvae and Description of Parasaccharibacter apium gen. nov., sp. nov.

Vanessa Corby-Harris, Lucy A. Snyder, Melissa R. Schwan, Patrick Maes, Quinn S. McFrederick, Kirk E. Anderson
Applied and environmental microbiology 2014 v.80 no.24 pp. 7460-7472
Acetobacteraceae, Apis, Lactobacillus kunkeei, bacteria, beehives, feeding behavior, forage crops, hindgut, honey bees, hypopharyngeal glands, insect larvae, intestinal microorganisms, microbial communities, midgut, nurse plants, phylogeny, pollen, royal jelly, sequence analysis, symbionts, symbiosis
The honey bee hive environment contains a rich microbial community that differs according to niche. Acetobacteraceae Alpha 2.2 (Alpha 2.2) are present in the food stores, the forager crop, and larvae but at negligible levels in the nurse and forager midgut and hindgut. We first sought to determine the source of Alpha 2.2 in young larvae by assaying the diversity of microbes in nurse crops, hypopharyngeal glands (HGs), and royal jelly (RJ). Amplicon-based pyrosequencing showed that Alpha 2.2 occupy each of these environments along with a variety of other bacteria, including Lactobacillus kunkeei. RJ and the crop contained fewer bacteria than the HGs, suggesting these tissues are rather selective environments. Phylogenetic analyses showed that honey bee derived Alpha 2.2 are specific to bees that “nurse” the hive’s developing brood with HG secretions and are distinct from the Saccharibacter-type bacteria found in bees provision their young differently, such as with a pollen ball coated in crop-derived contents. Acetobacteraceae can form symbiotic relationships with insects, so we next tested whether Alpha 2.2 increased larval fitness. We cultured 44 strains of Alpha 2.2 from young larvae that grouped into nine distinct clades. Three isolates from these nine clades flourished in royal jelly and one isolate increased larval survival in vitro. We conclude that Alpha 2.2 is not a gut bacterium but is prolific in the crop-HG-RJ-larvae niche, passed to developing brood through nurse worker feeding behavior. We propose the name Parasaccharibacter apium for this bacterial symbiont of bees in the genus Apis.