Swab samples (n=72) obtained from the teat apex of lactating dairy cows without visual signs of inflammation (n=18) were gathered on 2 well-managed Flemish dairy herds (herds 1 and 2) during the same month to assess the bacterial diversity of teat apices before milking. A combination of both culture-dependent [plating and (GTG)(5)-PCR fingerprinting of the colonies] and culture-independent [denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE)] techniques indicated that the teat apices contain a wide diversity of bacterial genera. Despite a low bacterial load, 20 bacterial genera of 3 phyla (Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria) were present. The most prevalent bacteria were the coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS), encompassing a total of 15 species, which were identified to the species level using a combination of (GTG)(5)-PCR fingerprinting, gene sequencing (16S ribosomal RNA and rpoB genes), and a novel PCR-DGGE technique based on the tuf-PCR amplicon. Overall bacterial diversity did not differ significantly between the herds or between noninfected and subclinically infected quarters in herd 1. In herd 1, borderline significant lower CNS species diversity was found on teat apices of noninfected quarters compared with subclinically infected quarters. The most prevalent CNS species were Staphylococcus haemolyticus and Staphylococcus equorum in both herds and Staphylococcus carnosus in herd 2.