This report details research on European honey bee gut bacteria in Australia. It is thought gut microbiota play several important roles in honey bees, such as contributing to food digestion, producing essential vitamins and helping prevent potentially harmful pathogens from colonising the gut. However, the precise contributions of beneficial microorganisms to the overall health of a honey bee colony is not well understood.
The research team involved with this project has been studying Australian bee gut bacteria for more than 12 years. In this study, the variation of honey bee gut bacteria over time was determined by sampling colonies in apiaries at Tharwa in the ACT and Bega in NSW. This showed seasonal variation in the number of bee gut bacteria present in the honey bee gut. It is important to know the seasonal variation of honey bee gut bacteria to develop probiotics. The team also isolated and characterised honey bee gut bacterial species that are able to inhibit the chalkbrood pathogen of bees and could be used for probiotic development.