Send to

Choose Destination
Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2016 Nov;100(22):9469-9482. Epub 2016 Oct 8.

Beneficial microorganisms for honey bees: problems and progresses.

Author information

Department of Agricultural Science, University of Bologna, Viale Fanin 44, 40127, Bologna, Italy.
Department of Agricultural Science, University of Bologna, Viale Fanin 44, 40127, Bologna, Italy.


Nowadays, honey bees are stressed by a number of biotic and abiotic factors which may compromise to some extent the pollination service and the hive productivity. The EU ban of antibiotics as therapeutic agents against bee pathogens has stimulated the search for natural alternatives. The increasing knowledge on the composition and functions of the bee gut microbiota and the link between a balanced gut microbiota and health status have encouraged the research on the use of gut microorganisms to improve bee health. Somehow, we are assisting to the transfer of the "probiotic concept" into the bee science. In this review, we examine the role of the honey bee gut microbiota in bee health and critically describe the available applications of beneficial microorganisms as pest control agents and health support. Most of the strains, mainly belonging to the genera Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Bacillus, are isolated from honey bee crop or gut, but some applications involve environmental strains or formulation for animal and human consumption. Overall, the obtained results show the favourable effect of applied microbial strains on bee health and productivity, in particular if strains of bee origin are used. However, it is actually not yet possible to conclude whether this strategy will ever work. In particular, many aspects regarding the overall setup of the experiments, the dose, the timing and the duration of the treatment need to be optimized, also considering the microbiological safety of the hive products (i.e. pollen and honey). In addition, a deep investigation about the effect on host immunity and physiology is envisaged. Lastly, the final users of the formulations, i.e. beekeepers, should be taken into account for the achievement of high-quality, cost-effective and easy-to-use products.


Antimicrobials; Bee nutrition; Bee pathogen; Beneficial microorganisms; Gut microbiota; Honey bee

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center