Interactions between fungi and bacteria influence microbial community structure in the Megachile rotundata larval gut

Quinn S. McFrederick, Ulrich G. Mueller, Rosalind R. James


Recent declines in bee populations coupled with advances in DNA-sequencing technology have sparked a renaissance in studies of bee-associated microbes. Megachile rotundata is an important field crop pollinator, but is stricken by chalkbrood, a disease caused by the fungus Ascosphaera aggregata. To test the hypothesis that some gut microbes directly or indirectly affect the growth of others, we applied four treatments to the pollen provisions of M. rotundata eggs and young larvae: antibacterials, antifungals, A. aggregata spores and a no-treatment control. We allowed the larvae to develop, and then used 454 pyrosequencing and quantitative PCR (for A. aggregata) to investigate fungal and bacterial communities in the larval gut. Antifungals lowered A. aggregata abundance but increased the diversity of surviving fungi. This suggests that A. aggregata inhibits the growth of other fungi in the gut through chemical or competitive interaction. Bacterial richness decreased under the antifungal treatment, suggesting that changes in the fungal community caused changes in the bacterial community. We found no evidence that bacteria affect fungal communities. Lactobacillus kunkeei clade bacteria were common members of the larval gut microbiota and exhibited antibiotic resistance. Further research is needed to determine the effect of gut microbes on M. rotundata health.

  • Received October 14, 2013.
  • Accepted January 6, 2014.
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