14 June, 2024

Fecal sampling protocol to assess bumble bee health in conservation research

By Tissier et al.

A bumblebee queen placed in a petri-dish to
collect faeces

The health of wild bees is declining worldwide, with an overall trend for community decline affecting many species of wild bees. These trends are associated with an increasing need to assess bee health, which can be characterized by a variety of traits, including nutritional and gut health, behavioral health, immunity or disease loads. Considering the widespread need to assess bee health, destructive sampling is not sustainable, especially for endangered populations or species. We thus developed a non-destructive protocol to collect bumble bee faeces, which can be used to assess parasite loads, microbiota or nutritional status of wild-caught individuals. In this study, we focused on parasite loads of Bombus spp., while presenting future avenues to assess bee health more broadly by adapting the protocol to solitary bees, and by using molecular techniques.

Wild-caught bumble bees were net-captured in the fields and placed in a 10cm diameter petri dish. To improve faeces collection success, we placed bumble bees in a previously refrigerated cooler, which allowed to successfully collect faeces for 86% individuals. We identified cells and spores of two common gut parasites Crithidia spp. and Vairimorpha spp. in faecal samples.

The faecal sampling presented in this paper opens future avenues to assess bee health in the field.


Read the scientific publication in JPE

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