Missing Microbes in Bees: How Systematic Depletion of Key Symbionts Erodes Immunity
Trends in Microbiology
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Pesticide exposure, infectious disease, and nutritional stress contribute to honey bee mortality and a high rate of colony loss. This realization has fueled a decades-long investigation into the single and combined effects of each stressor and their overall bearing on insect physiology. However, one element largely missing from this research effort has been the evaluation of underlying microbial communities in resisting environmental stressors and their influence on host immunity and disease tolerance. In humans, multigenerational bombardment by antibiotics is linked with many contemporary diseases. Here, we draw a parallel conclusion for the case in honey bees and suggest that chronic exposure to antimicrobial xenobiotics can systematically deplete honey bees of their microbes and hamper cross-generational preservation of host-adapted symbionts that are crucial to health.