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Trends in Microbiology

Drivers, Diversity, and Functions of the Solitary-Bee Microbiota

Anna Voulgari-Kokota1,2, Quinn S.McFrederick3, Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter4, Alexander Keller1,2

Department of Bioinformatics, University of Würzburg, Biocenter, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany.


Accumulating reports of global bee declines have drawn much attention to the bee microbiota and its importance. Most research has focused on social bees, while solitary species have received scant attention despite their enormous biodiversity, ecological importance, and agroeconomic value. We review insights from several recent studies on diversity, function, and drivers of the solitary-bee microbiota, and compare these factors with those relevant to the social-bee microbiota. Despite basic similarities, the social-bee model, with host-specific core microbiota and social transmission, is not representative of the vast majority of bee species. The solitary-bee microbiota exhibits greater variability and biodiversity, with a strong impact of environmental acquisition routes. Our synthesis identifies outstanding questions that will build understanding of these interactions, responses to environmental threats, and consequences for health.

Keywords: microbiome, insect–microbe interaction, Apoidea, microbial ecology, bacterial transmission, sociality.

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