Flowers give microbes, according to ScienceDaily 6 September 2016 and Microbial Ecology 2016; doi: 10.1007/s00248-016-0838-1.

Scientists in USA have found that flowers not only provide bees with nectar and pollen, they are also a “hot spot of transmission of bacteria that end up in the microbiome of wild bees”. Picking up germs from flowers may sound bad for bees, but it is actually a good thing.

The “microbiome” is the community of microbes that live as harmless commensals in the bee’s gut and on other internal and external body surfaces. A healthy microbiome is essential for the good health of the individual that hosts them. Each new generation of bees needs to acquire these “good bacteria” during their larval stage. Social bees, who live in a hive, get their microbes from other bees and hive surfaces, but many species of wild bees live solitary lives, with each female making a nest for her own young and supplying them with nectar and pollen. These bees must have some other means of keeping up the supply of good bacteria. These useful bacteria are found in many places in the environment and flowers collect them from wind blowing them in, or from tiny insects like thrips, and then transmit them to bees via their nectar and pollen.

To see if wild bees were obtaining useful microbes from flowers Quinn McFrederick of University of California Riverside and colleagues set up pieces of wood with small holes in them that would make suitable nesting sites for wild bees, and placed them in fields of wild flowers. When bees nested, the researchers collected the bees, then analysed the microbiomes of the adult and larval bees in the pollen they were carrying and storing. The researchers also collected flowers from the fields and analysed the microbes found in them. They found the same bacteria in both the bees and flowers, and concluded that the flowers were acting as transmission hubs for the bacteria, and that this is important for maintaining bee health.

One of the shared kinds of bacteria they found was Lactobacillus. These bacteria are used by people for making foods such as sourdough bread and pickles. The UC Riverside researchers suggest the Lactobacillus bacteria are important in preserving pollen and nectar stored by the bees to feed their larvae.


Editorial Comment: The health of wild bee microbiomes may seem a rather obscure topic for research, but wild bees are just as important as the more familiar honeybees and bumblebees for pollinating plants, and therefore feeding the world and keeping the world’s ecosystems functioning. It is also a good reminder that even in today’s world, most microbes are helpful rather than harmful, and are actually essential for life.

Having flowers act as hubs for collecting and transmitting useful bacteria is another example of the brilliant way plants, animals and microbes work together with multiple ways of supporting one another. This is real evidence of clever design by the loving intelligent Creator, who made a very good world of fully functioning living things working together in tight-knit fully functioning interactive ecosystems.

The living world really works by co-operation, not competition and struggle. Life only became a struggle after man sinned against his Creator and God cursed the ground as part of the judgement on sin. Nevertheless, the living world mostly continues to function by working together and using the good functioning systems built in by the Creator. It is also good to learn that flowers have another function, along with providing nectar, pollen and warmth for insects, and food and beauty for human beings.

Evidence News vol. 16, No. 19
26 October 2016
Creation Research Australia

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