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Antibiotics vs. Bees

March 29, 2017

Antibiotics used to treat foulbrood in honeybee hives could be contributing to the decline of honeybee populations.



Honeybees treated with a common antibiotic (pink dots) were half as likely to survive the week after treatment compared with a group of untreated bees (green dots). (Vivian Abagiu/U. of Texas at Austin)


Antibiotics and bees. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Our gut microbiome – a collection of bacteria and other beneficial organisms – helps us digest our food and fight disease. The same is true of honeybee microbiomes. And, as in humans, the overuse of antibiotics may be meddling with their gut flora, according to a study in PLOS Biology. University of  Texas at Austin evolutionary biologist Kasie Raymann administered a common antibiotic to honeybees. Returning to the hive later, she found only 1/3 of the treated bees still alive, but twice as many antibiotic-free controls survived.

KASIE RAYMANN (University of Texas, Austin):

So this suggested that by disrupting the microbiome, it caused reduced survival. And, in part, we think this is because it led to increased susceptibility to pathogens.


Raymann says the practice of treating hives with antibiotics could be contributing to the recent decline in honeybee populations. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard