Lactobacillus bombicola is a probiotic bacteria belonging to the genus Lactobacillus, which is found in the gut of bumble bees.

Two black glossy oval-shaped and two thread-like structures

Close-up of the head of a bee

The Lactobacillus genus is recognized as a good bacteria that contains probiotic characteristics. This genus of Bacillus species is mainly found in the gastrointestinal tracts of humans and animals, including insects such as bees. Furthermore, the lactobacillus species are also found in the urogenital areas of humans, especially in the female genital areas. The primary role of this species of bacteria is to protect the body from disease-causing pathogens. Additionally, these bacterial species also help regulate immunomodulation, maintain the balance in the body’s microbiota, and improve the efficient absorption of nutrients by the intestine. If the lactobacillus species are reduced, the pathogens will grow, causing diseases. Therefore, Lactobacillus species are incorporated into pharmaceutical and food industries to replenish the lost probiotic bacteria. Lactobacillus bombicola is found in the gut of the bumble bee. Understanding the healthy gut of bees will help agriculturalists grow healthy bees, especially for agricultural purposes.

Overview of Lactobacillus bombicola

Lactobacillus bombicola is a rod-shaped, non-motile, non-spore-forming, gram-positive, facultative anaerobic bacteria that do not have catalase; hence, they cannot convert hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) into oxygen and water. These bacteria do not have cytochrome c oxidase, the enzyme responsible for oxidizing the test reagent. The bacterial cell colonies are shiny, brown, undulating, and grow to a diameter of 2 mm after 48 hours of incubation in MRS agar. Lactobacillus bombicola is observed to grow between 25°C and 37°C. However, the optimal growth temperature is 37°C with a pH of 3–7.

Small white dots on round pale yellow surface

Close-up of lactobacillus culture in Petri dish

Upon glucose metabolism, Lactobacillus bombicola does not produce any gas. Instead, it produces only D-lactic acid as a byproduct; therefore, it is homofermentative. The GC content is found to be 34.5 mol%. This novel species was first isolated from the gut of a bumble bee species, Bombus lapidarius, hence the bacterial species name, Lactobacillus bombicola. However, other species of bees, such as honey bees (Apis genre), contain Lactobacillus apis, which was isolated from the stomach of Apis mellifera, a species of honey bee. Therefore, the various genders of bees include different types of lactobacillus species.

Functions and Benefits 

The Lactobacillus species have many probiotic benefits for humans, plants, and animals. These species, found in the gastrointestinal tracts of humans and animals, assist in enhancing their digestive functions and improving their immune systems to fight disease-causing pathogens. The lactobacillus species are responsible for maintaining the microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract. An increased number of lactobacillus species helps decrease the growth of harmful pathogens. Assume the population of the lactobacillus species decreases as the population of other microbes increases; this will result in an increase in diseases. Therefore, humans can replenish their lactobacillus species (probiotics) by consuming dairy products fermented with lactobacillus strains. Probiotic yogurts and milk products are fermented with good bacteria that can help replace the lost probiotics in the body.

Blue small rod-shaped structures

Illustration of blue-colored lactobacillus species 

Similarly, to improve the digestive functions of animals, feed fermented with probiotic bacteria is given to the animals. This will help enhance the animals’ digestive processes and help reduce disease-causing pathogens, thus improving animal health. Probiotic feed is primarily used in poultry products to produce high quality and quantity yield. Correspondingly, bumble bees are reared as agricultural pollinators. To improve their health by protecting them from any diseases, probiotic fermented feed is provided to improve their health, thereby maintaining their biodiversity in the ecosystem. One of the LAB (lactic acid bacteria) recently identified is Lactobacillus bombicola, found in the gut of healthy bumble bees. This bacteria’s specific functions have yet to be studied. However, this bacteria does play an essential role in maintaining a healthy gut in bumble bees.

Asha Rachel Thomas


Tags: Lactobacillus bombicola - In Bumble Bees

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