The European honey bee (Apis
mellifera) plays a major role in pollination and food production, but is
under threat from emerging pathogens and agro-environmental insults. As with
other organisms, honey bee health is a complex product of environment, host
genetics and associated microbes (commensal, opportunistic and pathogenic).
Improved understanding of bee genetics and their molecular ecology can help
manage modern challenges to bee health and production. Sampling bee and cobiont
genomes, we characterised the metagenome of 19 honey bee colonies across
Britain. Low heterozygosity was observed in bees from many Scottish colonies,
sharing high similarity to the native dark bee, A. mellifera mellifera.
Apiaries exhibited high diversity in the composition and relative abundance of
individual microbiome taxa. Most non-bee sequences derived from known honey bee
commensal bacteria or known pathogens, e.g. Lotmaria passim (Trypanosomatidae),
and Nosema spp. (Microsporidia). However, DNA was also detected from
numerous additional bacterial, plant (food source), protozoan and metazoan
organisms. This leads to an anecdotal observation that colonies producing high
levels of propolis carried lower trypanosome burden. We are currently
investigating this potential anti-correlation at our apiary in Edinburgh.