DALLAS (KRLD) – For years, honeybees have disappeared by the millions and many explanations have been given as to why. Today, we may have found another reason.
According to a study done by the University of Texas at Austin, the antibiotics farmers are giving the bees are actually harming them rather than helping.
Researchers from UT Austin have found that the honeybees they are treating with a common antibiotic were half as likely to survive the week after treatment compared with a group of bees that went untreated, a discovery that could impact both bees and the human population.
Researcher Kasie Rayman says the antibiotics cleared out the beneficial gut bacteria in bees. This allowed a harmful pathogen, which also happens in humans, to take hold. An indication that an overuse of antibiotics can sometimes make living things, including us, sicker.
“I think this is a helpful study that can give us some clue about what antibiotic treatment is doing to honeybees when it’s being used frequently,” Rayman says.
According to UT Austin, U.S. beekeepers began finding their hives decimated by what became known as colony collapse disorder. This left farms with fewer pollinators for crops. The disappearance of the millions of bees has already been connected to exposure to pesticides, habitat loss and bacterial infections.
“Our study suggests that perturbing the gut microbiome of honeybees is a factor, perhaps one of many, that could make them more susceptible to declining and to the colony collapsing,” professor Nancy Moran said. “Antibiotics may have been an underappreciated factor in colony collapse.”
Rayman and Moran say people and beekeepers should continue to use antibiotics to protect bees and themselves, however, they should be careful when deciding when and how often they are used.