Herbicide May Harm Microbiome of Bees
Herbicide May Harm Microbiome of Bees

Herbicide May Harm Microbiome of Bees

Glyphosate perturbs the balance of gut bacteria in honey bees and increases the insects’ susceptibility to lethal infection.

Iris Kulbatski
Sep 26, 2018

ABOVE: Studying the gut microbiome of bees provides insight into the insects' overall health and resistance to infection.

Consuming a mixture of sugar syrup and glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, alters honey bees’ microbiomes, and these changes increased mortality among insects exposed to pathogenic bacteria, according to a study published yesterday (September 24) in PNAS

Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide worldwide. It acts by blocking a key plant enzyme used in the production of amino acids. Researchers are divided on whether the chemical is safe to animals at the levels it is usually used as a herbicide. However, some bacteria are known to produce this enzyme, and the new study demonstrates what some researchers have suspected: glyphosate may harm animals indirectly by killing their resident microbes. 

Nancy Moran of the University of Texas at Austin and colleagues found that glyphosate...

Given these findings, more research is warranted to determine whether the proposed mechanism of honey bee morbidity contributes significantly to issues of colony collapse and overall rates of honey bee decline worldwide, University of Illinois bee geneticist Gene Robinson tells Science

Moreover, the current study raises the possibility that glyphosate may alter the gut microbiome of other animals, including humans, Moran tells Science.