Lore Cheroutre

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Dynamics and functional role of gut microbiota in bumblebees (Bombus pascuorum) in their natural environment.

Background: Bumblebees play a central role in the pollination of many plant species, floral communities and agricultural crops. However, there are major concerns towards a global decline in the natural pollinator diversity. Especially for bumblebees, there is growing evidence of dramatic declines in Europe and other parts of the world. Like in other hosts, intestinal dysbiosis (a disruption of the normal gut microbiota) has gained attention to explain emergent diseases and colony collapses, but the bumblebee gut microbial community is only minimally known.

Two main research themes are adressed:

  1. What is the composition of the bumblebee gut microbiota, how does it develop in a colony and how does the environment influence this process?
  2. What is the role of the gut microbiota with regards to pollen digestion and protection against bumblebee parasites?

The research work is conducted both in a microbiology laboratory specialized in studying microbial diversity (Prof. Dr. Peter Vandamme, Fac. Sciences, UGent) and in a crop protection research group (Prof. Dr. ir. Guy Smagghe, Fac. Bioscience Engineering, UGent).