Apis mellifera is an important provider of ecosystem services, and during flight and foraging behaviour is exposed to environmental pollutants including airborne particulate matter (PM). While exposure to insecticides, antibiotics, and herbicides may compromise bee health through alterations of the gut microbial community, no data are available on the impacts of PM on the bee microbiota. Here we tested the effects of ultrapure Titanium dioxide (TiO2) submicrometric PM (i.e., PM1, less than 1 µm in diameter) on the gut microbiota of adult bees. TiO2 PM1 is widely used as a filler and whitening agent in a range of manufactured objects, and ultrapure TiO2 PM1 is also a common food additive, even if it has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a possible human carcinogen in Group 2B. Due to its ubiquitous use, honey bees may be severely exposed to TiO2 ingestion through contaminated honey and pollen. Here, we demonstrated that acute and chronic oral administration of ultrapure TiO2 PM1 to adult bees alters the bee microbial community; therefore, airborne PM may represent a further risk factor for the honey bee health, promoting sublethal effects against the gut microbiota.
- Honey bee, PM, pollution, sublethal effects, microbiome, TiO2