Bee Bread fungus, ESG, Honey bees

An Aspergillus flavus strain from bee bread of the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) displays adaptations to distinctive features of the hive environment

Researchers have long noted the presence of Aspergillus flavus in honey bee colonies. A new study reveals that this fungus is specially adapted to survive in the hive environment. It was published in Ecology and Evolution. the study explores how A. flavus thrives in bee bread—a primary food source for Apis mellifera (western honey bee). Bee bread, despite its acidic, low-moisture, and antimicrobial-rich nature, supports a diverse microbiome essential for honey bee food processes.

Daniel Bush from the Berenbaum lab led the study, challenging the belief that fungi struggle to survive in bee bread due to bacterial dominance. Using three strains of A. flavus, including one from central Illinois hives, researchers tested their resilience to hive-specific conditions such as low pH and propolis.

The hive-associated strain excelled in acidic conditions and resisted propolis, hinting at unique genetic adaptations. Sequencing this strain revealed mutations that help it thrive in the harsh hive environment, suggesting a potential mutual benefit between the fungus and bees.

Future research will examine the fungus's performance across different bee bread compositions and the impact of fungicides on these hive-resident microbes.


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