Supplementary material to Beneficial Microbes article: Supplementation of honeybee production colonies with a native beneficial microbe mixture
Honeybee colonies form a complex superorganism, with individual and social immune defences that control overall colony health. Sometimes these defences are not enough to overcome infections by parasites and pathogens. For that reason, several studies have been conducted to evaluate different strategies to improve honeybee health. A novel alternative that is being studied is the use of beneficial microbes. In a previous study, we isolated and characterised bacterial strains from the native gut microbiota of honeybees. Four Apilactobacillus kunkeei strains were mixed and administered in laboratory models to evaluate their potential beneficial effect on larvae and adult bees. This beneficial microbe mixture was safe; it did not affect the expression of immune-related genes, and it was able to decrease the mortality caused by Paenibacillus larvae infection in larvae and reduced the Nosema ceranae spore number in infected adult honeybees. In the present study, we aimed to delve into the impact of the administration of this beneficial microbe mixture on honeybee colonies, under field conditions. The mixture was administered in sugar syrup using lyophilised bacterial cells or fresh cultures, by aspersion or sprayed and feeder, once a week for three consecutive weeks, in autumn or spring 2015, 2017 and 2019. Colony strength parameters were estimated before the administration, and one and three months later. Simultaneously different samples were collected to evaluate the infection levels of parasites and pathogens. The results showed that administering the beneficial microbe mixture decreased or stabilised the infection by N. ceranae or Varroa destructor in some trials but not in others. However, it failed to improve the colony's strength parameters or honey production. Therefore, field studies can be a game-changer when beneficial microbes for honeybees are tested, and meticulous studies should be performed to test their effectiveness in the field.