Microbiome of the wasp Vespula pensylvanica in native and invasive populations, and associations with Moku virus.
Invasive species present a worldwide concern as competition and pathogen reservoirs for native species. Specifically, the invasive social wasp, Vespula pensylvanica, is native to western North America and has become naturalized in Hawaii, where it exerts pressures on native arthropod communities as a competitor and predator. As invasive species may alter the microbial and disease ecology of their introduced ranges, there is a need to understand the microbiomes and virology of social wasps. We used 16S rRNA gene sequencing to characterize the microbiome of V. pensylvanica samples pooled by colony across two geographically distinct ranges and found that wasps generally associate with taxa within the bacterial genera Fructobacillus, Fructilactobacillus, Lactococcus, Leuconostoc, and Zymobacter, and likely associate with environmentally-acquired bacteria. Furthermore, V. pensylvanica harbors-and in some cases were dominated by-many endosymbionts including Wolbachia, Sodalis, Arsenophonus, and Rickettsia, and were found to contain bee-associated taxa, likely due to scavenging on or predation upon honey bees. Next, we used reverse-transcriptase quantitative PCR to assay colony-level infection intensity for Moku virus (family: Iflaviridae), a recently-described disease that is known to infect multiple Hymenopteran species. While Moku virus was prevalent and in high titer, it did not associate with microbial diversity, indicating that the microbiome may not directly interact with Moku virus in V. pensylvanica in meaningful ways. Collectively, our results suggest that the invasive social wasp V. pensylvanica associates with a simple microbiome, may be infected with putative endosymbionts, likely acquires bacterial taxa from the environment and diet, and is often infected with Moku virus. Our results suggest that V. pensylvanica, like other invasive social insects, has the potential to act as a reservoir for bacteria pathogenic to other pollinators, though this requires experimental demonstration.