Nectar‐inhabiting microorganisms influence nectar volatile composition and attractiveness to a generalist pollinator
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1111/nph.14809
The plant microbiome can influence plant phenotype in diverse ways, yet microbial contribution to plant volatile phenotype remains poorly understood. We examine the presence of fungi and bacteria in the nectar of a coflowering plant community, characterize the volatiles produced by common nectar microbes and examine their influence on pollinator preference. Nectar was sampled for the presence of nectar-inhabiting microbes. We characterized the headspace of four common fungi and bacteria in a nectar analog. We examined electrophysiological and behavioral responses of honey bees to microbial volatiles. Floral headspace samples collected in the field were surveyed for the presence of microbial volatiles. Microbes commonly inhabit floral nectar and the common species differ in volatile profiles. Honey bees detected most microbial volatiles tested and distinguished among solutions based on volatiles only. Floral headspace samples contained microbial-associated volatiles, with 2-ethyl-1-hexanol and 2-nonanone - both detected by bees - more often detected when fungi were abundant. Nectar-inhabiting microorganisms produce volatile compounds, which can differentially affect honey bee preference. The yeast Metschnikowia reukaufii produced distinctive compounds and was the most attractive of all microbes compared. The variable presence of microbes may provide volatile cues that influence plant-pollinator interactions.