Refining the Roots of the Beewolf-Streptomyces Symbiosis: Antennal Symbionts in the Rare Genus Philanthinus (Hymenoptera, Crabronidae)

Creative Commons License

Kaltenpoth M., YILDIRIM E., GÜRBÜZ M. F. , Herzner G., Strohm E.

APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, vol.78, no.3, pp.822-827, 2012 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 78 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Doi Number: 10.1128/aem.06809-11
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.822-827
  • Süleyman Demirel University Affiliated: Yes


Insects engage in symbiotic associations with a large diversity of beneficial microorganisms. While the majority of well-studied symbioses have a nutritional basis, several cases are known in which bacteria protect their host from pathogen infestation. Solitary wasps of the genera Philanthus and Trachypus (beewolves; Hymenoptera, Crabronidae) cultivate the actinomycete "Candidatus Streptomyces philanthi" in specialized antennal gland reservoirs. The symbionts are transferred to the larval cocoon, where they provide protection against pathogenic fungi by producing at least nine different antibiotics. Here we investigated the closest relatives of Philanthus and Trachypus, the rare genus Philanthinus, for the presence of antennal gland reservoirs and symbiotic streptomycetes. Molecular analyses identified "Ca. Streptomyces philanthi" in reservoirs of Philanthinus quattuordecimpunctatus. Phylogenies based on the 16S rRNA gene suggest that P. quattuordecimpunctatus may have acquired "Ca. Streptomyces philanthi" by horizontal transfer from other beewolf species. In histological sections and three-dimensional reconstructions, the antennal gland reservoirs were found to occupy six antennal segments (as opposed to only five in Philanthus and Trachypus) and to be structurally less complex than those of the evolutionarily more derived genera of beewolves. The presence of "Ca. Streptomyces philanthi" in antennal glands of Philanthinus indicates that the symbiosis between beewolves and Streptomyces bacteria is much older than previously thought. It probably evolved along the branch leading to the monophyletic tribe Philanthini, as it seems to be confined to the genera Philanthus, Trachypus, and Philanthinus, which together comprise 172 described species of solitary wasps.