honey bee gut microbes

Summarized from “Gut Microbes Help Bees Survive the Seasons” by Jay Evans, USDA Beltsville Bee Lab.

The world of honey bees is buzzing with more than just their characteristic hum – it’s teeming with the intricate dance of Honey Bee gut microbes gut microbes that play a pivotal role in their health and well-being across seasons. As we usher in the embrace of fall and look towards the chill of winter, there’s an enchanting story unfolding about the beneficial microbes in bee guts and how nurturing them can ensure the vitality of our precious bee colonies.


Research spearheaded by Kirk Anderson from the USDA’s Tucson Carl Hayden Bee Research Laboratory unveils the tale of these microbes and their undeniable influence on bee health. Their studies have highlighted that while beneficial bacteria prosper in bee guts, they don’t necessarily assist in the transformation of pollen into bee bread. Additionally, the microbial tales of queen bees differ starkly from those of worker bees.

One fascinating chapter from recent studies sheds light on the behaviour of Honey Bee gut microbes as winter approaches. These findings showcase that these microbial companions are vital for bees to brave the cold successfully. However, in the comforting warmth of certain climates, these beneficial bacteria can be overshadowed by harmful counterparts, emphasizing the need to champion the bee gut ecosystem.

Versatile Roles of Bee Gut Microbes

The challenges for bees don’t just lie in the changing seasons. Their health can be jeopardized when the harmonious melody of their gut microbiome is disrupted. Such imbalances can arise from various factors – from the harsh tunes of environmental stressors to the discordance of poor nutrition, and even the absence of their beneficial bacterial partners. These natural gut microbes, however, can play multiple roles, serenading the bees with benefits ranging from protective barriers against pathogens to melodies of enhanced nutrient absorption and a bolstered immunity.

An intriguing note from the research suggests how a symphony of antibiotics can, unfortunately, disrupt this dance, making bees more vulnerable to diseases like Nosema. Such revelations underscore the vital role played by natural bee bacteria. On an innovative note, some maestros of science have even orchestrated the engineering of ‘good’ bee bacteria in labs to confront challenges such as Varroa mites and viruses.

Pollen-Based Supplements

For our dedicated beekeepers, the future need not solely depend on these high-tech compositions. Research has hinted that the gentle rhythm of pollen-based supplements can help maintain the equilibrium of bacteria in bee guts, potentially dampening the discordant threats from certain pathogens.

In the grand ballet of nature, while some microbial performers can pose threats to bee colonies, many join in harmony, supporting their bee partners through the sonatas of summer and the lullabies of winter. Bees, with their millennia-long history, have been perfect dance partners to these microbes. As we continue to delve into their world, let’s ensure we play our part in nurturing this age-old, harmonious dance.