60-Second Science

2 of 500 episodes indexed
Back to Search - All Episodes

Beehives Are Held Together by Their Mutual Gut Microbes

by Scientific American
April 20th 2021
New research shows that members of a bee colony all have the same gut microbiome, which controls their smell—and thus their ability to separate family from foe.
Mhm. This is scientific Americans 62nd Science. I'm Shayla Barzan. Mhm. Every honeybee colony has its own unique scent like a fingerprint. And bees use that sent to recognize their nest mates, basically saying you smell like me. So I'm going to let you into the colony. But here's the mystery. If you transfer a baby be into a new hive. Not only does the colony accept it, but that be will eventually smell like it's adopted nest mates, even though they're not genetically related. This kind of got us thinking perhaps is not actually the genetics of the b it's actually the genetics of the microbes that live within the b. Cassandra vernier is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois. She knew gut microbes could affect the scent and communication of other animals like hyenas. So she and her co authors designed a series of experiments to test whether microbes also change the scent compounds coating the

outside of honeybees known as q particular hydrocarbons. In one experiment, they fed different gut microbes to newly hatched sister bees. The bees developed distinct microbiome and they also produced different particular hydrocarbon sense. But on the other hand, if they were treated with different inoculations, they recognized each other as non in estimates or intruders and they attacked each other usually in the form of fighting each other. In other words, bees from the same colony did not recognize each other when they had different gut microbes Washington University biology professor and co author Yehuda Ben Shahar says the microbes are changing the bees physiologically and controlling their complicated social behaviors. But he adds this relationship is mutually beneficial for the bacteria and the bees, the bees depend on these. I mean they have to have some of these bacteria. So the idea is that you have a system where this relationship serves the

biology of both the bacteria and the host and it gets to a point where it's obligatory being able to distinguish nest mates from invaders is absolutely critical, Ben Shahar says. Without that ability, bees would be vulnerable to nest parasites and two other bees looking to steal their most precious commodity honey. And so the entrance fee must be paid not in dollars but in sense for scientific Americans 62nd Science. I'm Shayla Farzana, mm hmm.

Beehives Are Held Together by Their Mutual Gut Microbes
Beehives Are Held Together by Their Mutual Gut Microbes
replay_10 forward_10