Gut microbial composition in different castes and developmental stages of the invasive hornet Vespa velutina nigrithorax.
Social insects are successful animal invaders. Their survival and success, and in some cases also their impact on invaded ecosystem functioning, is often mediated by symbiosis with microorganisms. Here, we report a comprehensive comparative characterization of the gut microbial communities of different castes and developmental stages of the invasive hornet Vespa velutina nigrithorax. The species recently colonized Europe, becoming a high ecological and economic concern, as it threatens pollinator survival and competes with native hornet species. We used targeted meta-genomics to describe the yeasts and bacteria gut communities of individuals of different reproductive phenotypes (workers and future queens), life stages (larvae, newly emerged individuals and adults) and colony non-living samples (nest paper and larval faeces). Bacilli, Gammaproteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Alphaproteobacteria were the most abundant classes of bacteria, and Saccharomycetes, Dothideomycetes, Tremellomycetes and Eurotiomycetes were the most represented yeast classes. We found that the microbial compositions significantly differ across developmental stages and castes, with yeast and bacterial communities switching in frequency and abundance during ontogeny and according to reproductive phenotype. Moreover, the gut microbial communities poorly mirror those found in the nest, suggesting that hornets possess a specific microbial signature. Our results provide the first metagenomic resource of the microbiome of V. velutina in Europe and suggest the importance of considering life stages, reproductive phenotypes and nest influence in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of social insect microbial communities.