Michelle Taylor

Doctor of Philosophy, (Ecology)
Study Completed: 2020
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
Microbiota in the honey bee gut and their association with bee health

Honey bees play a key role in human welfare as their pollination services support the ecological viability of wild and native plants, and the economic viability of numerous nut, fruit, and vegetable crops. New Zealand honey bees have been isolated for decades. It is therefore likely that they have developed their own gut microbiome in response to the NZ environment where the use of antibiotics for disease management is prohibited, native plants contribute to the food they collect, and some international honey bee pathogens are absent. Ms Taylor was the first to characterise and identify the relative abundance of the bacterial profile within the gut of NZ honey bees, showing that some bacteria are specific to NZ. She showed that bees had similar bacterial composition, but that this altered throughout the year and was influenced by plant availability. Specifically, spring bees had fewer types of bacteria than summer bees, and more opportunistic bacteria were found in bees fed ‘sucrose-rich’ diets than in bees fed honey. Ms Taylor identified three bacterial phylotypes as potential indicators of poor bee health: Rhizobiaceae, Serratia, and Acetobacter.

Professor Alastair Robertson
Dr Shanthi Parkar
Professor Ravi Ravindran
Associate Professor Patrick Biggs

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