Bacterial symbionts are increasingly recognised as mediators of ecologically important traits of their animal hosts, with acquisition of new traits possible by uptake of novel symbionts. The entomopathogenic nematode Heterorhabditis downesi associates with two bacterial symbionts, Photorhabdus temperata subsp. temperata and P. temperata subsp. cinerea. At one intensively studied coastal dune site, P. temperata subsp. cinerea is consistently more frequently isolated than P. temperata subsp. temperata in H. downesi recovered from under the bare sand/Ammophila arrenaria of the front dunes (where harsh conditions, including drought, prevail). This is not the case in the more permissive closed dune grassland further from the sea. No differences were detected in ITS1 (internal transcribed spacer) sequence between nematode lines carrying either of the two symbiont subspecies, nor did they differ in their ability to utilise insects from three orders. The two symbionts could be readily swapped between lines, and both were carried in equal numbers within infective juveniles. In laboratory experiments, we tested whether the symbionts differentially affected nematode survival in insect cadavers that were allowed to dry. We assessed numbers of nematode infective juveniles emerging from insects that had been infected with H. downesi carrying either symbiont subspecies and then allowed to desiccate for up to 62 days. In moist conditions, cadavers produced similar numbers of nematodes, irrespective of the symbiont subspecies present, while under desiccating conditions, P. temperata subsp. cinerea cadavers yielded more nematode progeny than P. temperata subsp. temperata cadavers. Desiccating cadavers with the same nematode isolates, carrying either one or the other symbiont subspecies, confirmed that the symbiont was responsible for differences in nematode survival. Moreover, cadavers harbouring P. temperata subsp. cinerea had a reduced rate of drying relative to cadavers harbouring P. temperata subsp. temperata. Our experiments support the hypothesis that H. downesi can extend its niche into harsher conditions by associating with P. temperata subsp. cinerea.