EurBee 2018
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The animal gut is colonized by complex and highly specialized bacterial communities, which impact health and disease of their host in manifold ways. The honey bee (Apis mellifera) has recently emerged as a relevant model to study gut microbiota-host interactions. Bees harbor a simple gut microbiota with striking parallels to the mammalian system and importance for bee health. The research group of Dr. PHILIPP ENGEL at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, employs experimental and genomic approaches to study bee gut bacteria. His team is interested in understanding their evolution, metabolic functions and symbiotic interactions. The researchers believe that the bee gut microbiota is a powerful and versatile model for addressing key questions about microbial symbiosis, gut microbiology and bee health.

Five selected publications:
  • Kesnerova L, Mars RAT, Ellegaard KM, Troilo M, Sauer U, Engel P. Disentangling metabolic functions of bacteria in the honey bee gut. Accepted. PLoS Biol. (it is also on bioRxiv)
  • Emery O, Schmidt K, Engel P. (2017) Stimulation of the immune system by the gut symbiont Frischella perrara in the honey bee (Apis mellifera). Mol Ecol, 26: 2576-2590.
  • Engel P, Kwong WK, McFrederick Q, Anderson KE, Barribeau SM, Chandler JA, Cornman SR, Dainat J, de Miranda JR, Doublet V, Emery O, Evans JD, Farinelli L, Flenniken ML, Granberg F, Grasis JA, Gauthier L, Hayer J, Koch H, Kocher S, Martinson VG, Moran N, Munoz-Torres M, Newton I, Paxton RJ, Powell E, Sadd BM, Schmid-Hempel P, Schmid-Hempel R, Song SJ, Schwarz RS, vanEngelsdorp D, Dainat B. (2016) The bee microbiome: Impact on bee health and model for evolution and ecology of host-microbe interactions. mBio. 7(2): e02164-15.
  • Engel P, Moran NA. (2013) The gut microbiota of insects – Diversity in structure and function. FEMS Microbiol Rev, 37(5): 699-735.
  • Engel P, Martinson VG, Moran NA. (2012) Functional diversity within the simple gut microbiota of the honey bee. PNAS, 109(27): 11002-11007.


Professor DAN HULTMARK of the Department of Molecular Biology at Umeå University in Sweden, is studying the immune response in insects, using Drosophila as a model. He was involved in the discovery of the first antimicrobial peptides, the cecropins, in the Cecropia moth, and later he studied the induction mechanisms of the humoral immune response in Drosophila. His present research is focused on the fly’s cellular immune response; investigating how blood cells respond to parasite infection and studying the genes that are involved in this response. Of special interest are the interactions between different tissues in infected animals, redirecting nutrient resources towards the needs of the immune cells.

Five selected publications:
  • Anderl, I., Vesala, L., Ihalainen, T.O., Vanha-aho, L.-M., Andó, I., Rämet, M., and Hultmark, D. (2016). Transdifferentiation and proliferation in two distinct hemocyte lineages in Drosophila melanogaster larvae after wasp infection. PLoS Pathogens 12, e1005746.
  • Yang, H., Kronhamn, J., Ekström, J.-O., Korkut, G.G., and Hultmark, D. (2015). JAK/STAT signaling in Drosophila muscles controls the immune response against parasitoid infection. EMBO Rep. 16, 1664-1672.
  • Schmid, M.R., Anderl, I., Vesala, L., Vanha-aho, L.-M., Deng, X.-J., Rämet, M., and Hultmark, D. (2014). Control of Drosophila blood cell activation via Toll signaling in the fat body. PLoS One 9, e102568.
  • Hedengren, M., Åsling, B., Dushay, M.S., Ando, I., Ekengren, S., Wihlborg, M., and Hultmark, D. (1999). Relish, a central factor in the control of humoral, but not cellular immunity in Drosophila. Mol. Cell 4, 827–837.
  • Hultmark, D., Steiner, H., Rasmuson, T., and Boman, H.G. (1980). Insect immunity. Purification and properties of three inducible bactericidal proteins from hemolymph of immunized pupae of Hyalophora cecropia. Eur. J. Biochem. / FEBS 106, 7-16.


The research of Dr. KAREN KAPHEIM at Utah State University, USA, addresses the evolutionary processes responsible for the diversity and plasticity of social behavior in bees. She combines comparative genomics with behavioral and physiological ecology to investigate the developmental, social, and genomic mechanisms underpinning social evolution. By bridging these mechanisms with individual fitness consequences, Kapheim seeks to understand the ways in which genomic architecture influences social behavior, and in turn, how social evolution shapes the genome.

Five selected publications:
  • Kapheim, K. M., Johnson, M. M. (2017) Support for the reproductive ground plan hypothesis in a solitary bee: links between sucrose response and reproductive status. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 284: 2406.
  • Kapheim, K. M. (2016) Genomic sources of phenotypic novelty in the evolution of eusociality in insects. (Invited). Current Opinion in Insect Science. 13: 24-32.
  • McNeill, M. S., Kapheim, K. M., Brockmann, A., McGill, T. A. W., Robinson, G. E. (2016) Brain regions and molecular pathways responding to food reward type and value in honey bees. Genes, Brain, Behavior. 15: 305-317
  • Kapheim, K. M., Pan, H., Li, C., Salzberg, S. L., Puiu, D., Magoc, T., Robertson, H. M., Hudson, M. E., Venkat, A., Fischman, B. J., Hernandez, A., Yandell, M., Ence, D., Holt, C., Yocum, G. D., Kemp, W. P., Bosch, J., Waterhouse, R. M., Zdobnov, E. M., Stolle, E., Kraus, F. B., Helbing, S., Moritz, R. F. A., Glastad, K. M., Hunt, B. G., Goodisman, M. A. D., Hauser, F., Grimmelikhuijzen, C. J. P., Pinheiro, D. G., Nunes, F. M. F., Soares, M. P. M., Tanaka, E. D., Simões, Z. L. P., Hartfelder, K., Evans, J. D., Barribeau, S. M., Johnson, R. M., Massey, J. H., Southey, B. R., Hasselmann, M., Hamacher, D., Biewer, M., Kent, C. F., Zayed, A., Blatti III, C., Sinha, S., Johnston, J. S., Hanrahan, S. J., Kocher, S. D., Wang, J., Robinson, G. E., Zhang, G. (2015) Genomic signatures of evolutionary transitions from solitary to group living. Science. 348: 1139-1143.
  • Kapheim, K. M., Nonacs, P., Smith, A. R., Wayne, R. K., Wcislo, W. T. (2015) Kinship, parental manipulation, and evolutionary origins of eusociality. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 282: 2014.2886.


Dr. YVES LE CONTE is Research Director at the I.N.R.A. (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Avignon, France) in charge of programs dealing with behavioral, physiological, genetical aspects of the honey bee biology and pathology. Since 1983, his research focuses on the biology and chemical ecology of honey bee colonies. With his team and collaborators, they have discovered a few pheromones from the brood and the adult bees which are at the center of social regulations in the honey bee colony. Those are primer and releaser pheromones. The primer effect had been studied at the molecular and physiological level. With regard to the varroa mite, his team is also very much involved in research dealing with the host parasite relationships and also applied research to control the mite. Since the recent honey bee losses in Europe, his team studies the effects of different pathogens and parasites on bee health and focus on the interactions with pesticides to understand honey bee decline from the molecular and socio-genomic level to colony level.

Five selected publications:
  • Le Conte Y. & Hefetz A. (2008) Primer pheromones in social Hymenoptera. Annual Review of Entomology, 53 (1): 523-542.
  • Maisonnasse A., Alaux C., Beslay D, Crauser D, Gines C, Plettner E, Le Conte Y. (2010) New insights into honey bee (Apis mellifera) pheromone communication. Is the queen mandibular pheromone alone in colony regulation? Frontiers in Zoology 7(1): 18, doi:10.1186/1742-9994-7-18.
  • Le Conte Y, Huang ZY, Roux M, Zeng ZJ, Christides J-P, Bagneres A-G. (2015) Varroa destructor changes its cuticular hydrocarbons to mimic new hosts. Biol. Lett. 11: 20150233.
  • Mondet F., Alaux C., Severac D., Rohmer M., Mercer A.R., Le Conte Y. (2015) Antennae hold a key to Varroa-sensitive hygiene behaviour in honey bees. Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/srep10454.
  • Nazzi F. & Le Conte Y. (2016) Ecology of Varroa destructor, the major parasite of the western honeybee Apis mellifera. Annual Review of Entomology 61 (1): 417-432. DOI : 10.1146/annurev-ento-010715-023731


ALISON MERCER is Professor of Zoology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Her research focuses on cellular and molecular mechanisms that underpin learning and memory. For many years, she has used the honey bee, Apis mellifera, as a model to investigate how the brain enables animals to learn from experience. However, the arrival in New Zealand of the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, drew her attention to the need also for a better understanding of stress reactivity in honey bees. This has led to the establishment of collaborative efforts exploring the impacts of acute and chronic stressors on honey bee brain function and behaviour.

Five selected publications:
  • Urlacher E., Devaud, J-M, Mercer, A.R. (2017) C-type allatostatins mimic stress-related effects of alarm pheromone on honey bee learning and memory recall. PLoS ONE, 12(3):e0174321. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174321
  • Mondet, F., Kim, S.H., Miranda, J.R., Beslay, D., Le Conte, Y., Mercer, A.R. (2016) Specific cues associated with honeybee social defence against Varroa destructor infested brood. Scientific Reports, 6:25444, doi:10.1038/srep25444
  • Mondet, F., de Miranda, J. R., Kretzschmar, A., Le Conte, Y., Mercer, A.R. (2014) On the front line: Quantitative virus dynamics in honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies along a new expansion front of the parasite Varroa destructor. PLoS Pathogens, 10(8), 1004323. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004323
  • Urlacher, E., Devaud J-M, and Mercer, A.R. (2013) Pheromones acting as social signals modulate learning in honey bees. In: Handbook of Behavioral Neuroscience (Series Editor: Joe Huston, Düsseldorf, Germany), Invertebrate Learning and Memory. Editors: Randolf Menzel and Paul R. Benjamin, Elsevier/Academic Press.
  • Mustard, J.A., Vergoz, V., Mesce K.A., Klukas, K.A., Beggs, K.T., Geddes, L.H., McQuillan, H.J., and Mercer, A.R. (2012) Dopamine signaling in the bee. In: Honeybee Neurobiology and Behavior: a Tribute for Randolf Menzel. D. Eisenhardt, C.G. Galizia and M. Giurfa (Eds), Springer Verlag, 2012, pp. 199-209 (ISBN 978-94-007-2098-5)


TOM WENSELEERS is a professor at KU Leuven, Belgium, who combines theory with empirical research to study the fundamental factors that drive cooperative social behaviour and other complex traits in nature. To this end he uses a combination of theoretical modelling approaches and empirical research on diverse organisms, including social insects (ants, bees and wasps), microorganisms and humans. He also uses digital evolution with swarms of simulated robots to gain insight into possible routes towards complex sociality. Furthermore, with the advent of next-gen omics techniques and modern high-throughput mass-spectrometry, his lab is also committed to obtain a better mechanistic understanding of social traits in diverse organisms, including their (epi)genetic and genomic basis, as well as in unravelling the advanced chemical communication systems that are part of the complex sociality in insects."

Five selected publications:
  • B. Van den Bergh, J.E. Michiels, T. Wenseleers, E.M. Windels, P. Vanden Boer, D. Kestemont, L. De Meester, K.J. Verstrepen, N. Verstraeten, M. Fauvart & J. Michiels (2016) Frequency of antibiotic application drives rapid evolutionary adaptation of Escherichia coli persistence. Nature Microbiology 16020: 1-7.
  • E. Ferrante, A.E. Turgut, E. Duenez-Guzman, M. Dorigo & T. Wenseleers (2015) Evolution of self-organized task specialization in robot swarms. PLoS Computational Biology 11: e1004273.
  • A. Van Oystaeyen*, R.C. Oliveira*, L. Holman, J.S. van Zweden, C. Romero, C.A. Oi, P. d'Ettorre, M. Khalesi, J. Billen, F. Wäckers, J.G. Millar & T. Wenseleers (2014) Conserved class of queen pheromones stops social insect workers from reproducing. Science 287: 287-290.
  • F.L.W. Ratnieks & T. Wenseleers (2008) Altruism in insect societies and beyond: voluntary or enforced? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23: 45-52.
  • T. Wenseleers & F.L.W. Ratnieks (2006) Enforced altruism in insect societies. Nature 444: 50.

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