Dynamics and Impact of Arsenophonus apicola infection in pollinator communities


Background: Honey bees are economically important, providing products such as honey, and more widely bees represent important source of pollination services in horticultural, agricultural and natural environments. Honey bee, and more widely pollinator, health is a pressing concern.

We have recently isolated a novel associate of honey bees – Arsenophonus apicola – that is seasonally common and associated with poor honey bee hive health. Wider analysis indicates this infection is globally present and infects other pollinator species. The importance for honey bee health, and the evidence of infection outside honey bees, creates an imperative to understand A. apicola in the context of the wider pollinator community.

Research questions: the project will establish a) the extent to which A. apicola is present and impacts pollinators beyond honey bees and b) whether A. apicola infection transmits between pollinator species, necessitating a community approach to understanding infection outbreaks.

Aims & approach: The project will:

i)              Establish the frequency and Genetic diversity of A. apicola infection across pollinators, using a field sample – test – culture – sequence approach.

ii)            Determine the Capacity to cross infect: strains isolated in aim 1 will be transformed to express GFP and this used to track capacity to infect other hosts, and in particular honey bees.

iii)          Quantify health Impact on other pollinators. The capacity to infect, pathogenicity and impact on host systems will be investigated in the Bombus model. This programme will examine bee physiological responses using a mix of classical assays (e.g. Inhibition zone) and RNAseq analysis of impacts on host gene expression.

The project will have a strong interface with stakeholders – beekeepers, the BWARS network interested in pollinators, and wildlife trusts. The student will be expected to work with stakeholders in sampling, and disseminate project goals and outcomes to these groups.

Training: The student will be trained in Microbial genomics, both wet lab and bioinformatic elements, Field sampling and diagnostic testing for microbes; basic molecular microbiology; Experimental design and quantitative analysis; interface with stakeholders.

The ideal candidate will have a background in either a) Ecology/Agroecology b) Entomology or c) Microbiology/Microbial genomics. We do not expect the student to be in expert in all areas, but must present evidence of skill on one area and be excited to work across the discipline areas.


Applications should be made by emailing  with:

·        a CV (including contact details of at least two academic (or other relevant) referees);

·        a covering letter – clearly stating your first choice project, and optionally 2nd ranked project, as well as including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project(s) and at the selected University;

·        copies of your relevant undergraduate degree transcripts and certificates;

·        a copy of your IELTS or TOEFL English language certificate (where required);

·        a copy of your passport (photo page).

A GUIDE TO THE FORMAT REQUIRED FOR THE APPLICATION DOCUMENTS IS AVAILABLE AT https://www.nld-dtp.org.uk/how-apply. Applications not meeting these criteria may be rejected.

In addition to the above items, please email a completed copy of the Additional Details Form (as a Word document) to . A blank copy of this form can be found at: https://www.nld-dtp.org.uk/how-apply.

Informal enquiries may be made to 

The deadline for all applications is 12noon on Monday 9th January 2023. 


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

Studentships are funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for 4 years. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only, a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and stipend. We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.



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