Extensive screen for bacterial endosymbionts reveals taxon-specific distribution patterns among bees (Hymenoptera, Anthophila)

Michael Gerth, Abiya Saeed, Jennifer A. White, Christoph Bleidorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Bacterial endosymbionts play key roles in arthropod biology, ranging from beneficial mutualists to parasitic sex ratio manipulators. The number of described endosymbiotic bacterial taxa has accumulated continuously in recent years. While the understanding of arthropod-microbe interactions has advanced significantly, especially in model organisms, relatively little is known about symbiont distribution and effects in non-model organisms. As a first step to alleviate this gap in understanding, we performed an endosymbiont survey in bees (Anthophila), an ecologically and economically important group of hymenopterans. To this end, we sampled 170 bee species and screened by PCR for the presence of Wolbachia, Rickettsia, Arsenophonus and Cardinium. Detected strains were then further diagnosed by additional markers. Additionally, we tested if certain ecological traits, bee phylogeny or geographic origin of bees explain endosymbiont distribution. Our results indicate that supergroup A Wolbachia are very common in bees and that their distribution can be significantly correlated to both host ecology and phylogeny, although a distinction of these factors is not possible. Furthermore, bees from the same region (Old World or New World) are more likely to harbour identical Wolbachia strains than expected by chance. Other endosymbionts (Rickettsia, Arsenophonus) were less common, and specific to particular host taxa, suggesting that host phylogeny is a major predictor for endosymbiont distribution in bees.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© FEMS 2015.


  • Arsenophonus
  • Cardinium
  • PCR screen
  • Rickettsia
  • Wolbachia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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