Wild Bee Pollen Usage and Microbial Communities Co-vary Across Landscapes

  • Quinn S. McFrederick
  • Sandra M. Rehan
Invertebrate Microbiology


Bees forage for pollen and nectar at flowers but simultaneously acquire pathogenic, commensal, and likely beneficial microbes from these same flowers. Characterizing pollen usage of wild bees is therefore crucial to their conservation yet remains a challenging task. To understand pollen usage across landscapes and how this affects microbial communities found in the pollen provisions collected from flowers, we studied the generalist small carpenter bee Ceratina australensis. We collected C. australensis nests from three different climatic zones across eastern and southern Australia. To characterize the plant, fungal, and bacterial composition of these pollen provisions, we used a metabarcoding and next-generation sequencing approach. We found that the species richness of plant types, fungi, and bacteria was highest in a subtropical zone compared to a temperate or a grassland zone. The composition of these communities also differentiated by zone, particularly in pollen composition and fungal communities. Moreover, pollen composition strongly correlated with fungal community composition, suggesting that variation in pollen usage across landscapes results in variation in microbial communities. While how these pollen usage and microbial community patterns affect bee health merits additional work, these data further our understanding of how flowering plant community composition affects not only the pollen usage of a generalist bee but also its associated microbial communities.


Microbiome Metabarcoding Pollen Yeast Polylecty 



We thank Wyatt Shell and Rebecca Dew (UNH) for assistance with nest collections as well as Laura Leger (UCR) for assistance with pathogen screens.

Funding Information

US Department of Agriculture NIFA Hatch funds (CA-R-ENT-5109-H) to QSM and (NC1173) to SMR, National Science Foundation MSB-ECA award #1638728 to QSM and National Science Foundation IOS-Behavior #1456296 to SMR, as well as National Geographic (9659-15) to SMR supported this research.

Supplementary material

248_2018_1232_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (466 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 465 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EntomologyUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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