Parasites are linked to the decline of some bee populations; thus, understanding defense mechanisms has important implications for bee health. Recent advances have improved our understanding of factors mediating bee health ranging from molecular to landscape scales, but often as disparate literatures. Here, we bring together these fields and summarize our current understanding of bee defense mechanisms including immunity, immunization, and transgenerational immune priming in social and solitary species. Additionally, the characterization of microbial diversity and function in some bee taxa has shed light on the importance of microbes for bee health, but we lack information that links microbial communities to parasite infection in most bee species. Studies are beginning to identify how bee defense mechanisms are affected by stressors such as poor-quality diets and pesticides, but further research on this topic is needed. We discuss how integrating research on host traits, microbial partners, and nutrition, as well as improving our knowledge base on wild and semi-social bees, will help inform future research, conservation efforts, and management.

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