Nancy A. Moran


Research Projects in the moran lab

honey bee feeding on honey comb

The Role of the Gut Microbiota in Honey Bee HEALTH

USDA grant number 2018-67013-27540
(PI is Nancy Moran)

honey bee workers on frameThe health of honey bees is a major issue in agriculture and food crop productivity, due to their importance as pollinators of crop plants. Among the challenges facing honey bee populations are frequent and varied nutritional fluctuations due to seasonal shortages of floral resources or transport of bees to novel food environments. They also suffer from pathogens and parasites, loss of foraging habitat, and overwintering stress. Beekeepers often attempt to ameliorate nutritional shortages with dietary supplements, including pollen substitutes and sugar solutions, and these dietary supplements also impact bee health. Recently the gut microbiota of worker honey bees has been found to play a major role in mediating metabolism, hormone signaling, and disease resistance, with consequences for worker mortality rates. Since diet has repeatedly been shown to be a major determinant of the composition of gut communities, nutritional stress and artificial food supplements are expected to affect the size and composition of the honey bee gut microbiota, with potential downstream consequences for bee health. Indeed, the honey bee gut microbiota is now known to affect weight gain, fatty acid metabolism, gut PH and oxygen levels, and expression of insulin signaling and immune system pathways.

This project addresses how nutritional fluctuations and pesticides affect bee gut communities and consequently the health of individual bees and whole colonies. Results will enable an understanding of how the bee gut microbiota affects bee health and of how the nutritional environment might be managed by beekeepers to maintain health-promoting gut communities in bees.

Selected publications

  • Motta EVS, Arnott RLW, Moran NA. 2023. Caffeine Consumption Helps Honey Bees Fight a Bacterial Pathogen. Microbiol Spectr . 2023 May 22; e0052023. doi: 10.1128/spectrum.00520-23. [Online ahead of print.] 
  • Powell JE, Lau P, Rangel J, Arnott R, De Jong T, Moran NA. 2023. The microbiome and gene expression of honey bee workers are affected by a diet containing pollen substitutes. PLoS One . 18(5):e0286070. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0286070 
  • Motta EVS, Moran NA. 2023. The effects of glyphosate, pure or in herbicide formulation, on bumble bees and their gut microbial communities. Sci Total Environ. 872:162102. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.162102.
  • Motta EVS, Gage A, Smith TE, Blake KJ, Kwong WK, Riddington IM, Moran NA. 2022. Host-microbiome metabolism of a plant toxin in bees. eLife. 11:e82595. doi: 10.7554/eLife.82595
  • Holley JC, Jackson MN, Pham AT, Hatcher SC, Moran NA. 2022. Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa) Harbor a Distinctive Gut Microbiome Related to That of Honey Bees and Bumble Bees. Appl Environ Microbiol. 88(13):e0020322. doi: 10.1128/aem.00203-22.
  • Motta EVS, Powell JE, Leonard SP, Moran NA. 2022. Prospects for probiotics in social bees. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 377(1853): 20210156. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2021.0156.
  • Motta EVS, Powell JE,┬áMoran NA. 2022. Glyphosate induces immune dysregulation in honey bee. Anim Microbiome 4(1):16. doi: 10.1186/s42523-022-00165-0
  • Powell JE, Carver Z, Leonard SP,┬áMoran NA. 2021. Field-realistic tylosin exposure impacts honey bee microbiota and pathogen susceptibility, which is ameliorated by native gut probiotics. Microbiol Spectr. 9(1):e0010321. doi: 10.1128/Spectrum.00103-21.
  • Motta EVS, Moran NA. 2020. Impact of Glyphosate on the Honey Bee Gut Microbiota: Effects of Intensity, Duration, and Timing of Exposure. mSystems 5(4):e00268-20. doi: 10.1128/mSystems.00268-20.
  • Motta EVS, Mak M, De Jong TK, Powell JE, O'Donnell A, Suhr KJ, Riddington IM, Moran NA. 2020. Oral and topical exposure to glyphosate in herbicide formulation impact the gut microbiota and survival rates of honey bees. Appl Environ Microbiol. 86(18):e01150-20. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01150-20.
  • Motta EVS, Raymann K, Moran NA. 2018. Glyphosate perturbs the gut microbiota of honey bees. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 15: 10305-10310. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1803880115