A new study found that glyphosate destroys the good bacteria in the digestive systems of the bees, making them more susceptible to infection.

Researchers from the University of Texas in Austin have demonstrated that herbicide glyphosate decimates honey bee populations. Their research study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors of the study wrote that the weedkiller makes bees vulnerable to infections and death by destroying the bees’ microbiome.

The microbiome is regarded as the good bacteria living inside the guts of the bees and outside their bodies. The microbiome thrives within and outside all living creatures, helping to balance the health of the species, including humans. While glyphosate kills off plants with effective ease, it was not believed to harm creatures until now.

Glyphosate Reduces the Abilities of Bees to Fight off Common Infections

Erick Motta, lead author of the study, revealed the weedkiller is fatal to honey bees contrary to what was earlier believed from guidelines. He advised farmers and gardeners to not use the herbicide on plants containing nectar so as not to poison visiting bees. He also urged regulators to come up with environment-friendly guidelines on the application of glyphosate.

For the study, the scientists gathered honey bees with considerable microbiota. They exposed the bees with glyphosate commensurate with the levels they would encounter in the field. They labeled the bees so they could be tracked. Then they did the same thing with bees from another hive.

Three days after the experiment, the scientists found that glyphosate had destroyed the good bacteria in the digestive systems of the bees. Honey bees with damaged microbiomes can be overcome by common bee pathogens, but those with healthy microbiomes can overcome the common bee infection. In the experiment, many of the bees with healthy microbiome survived after infection with the pathogen, while many of those exposed to glyphosate died off.

Herbicides and Pesticides Disrupt Bees’ Abilities to Learn, Pollinate and Reproduce

“Studies in humans, bees and other animals have shown that the gut microbiome is a stable community that resists infection by opportunistic invaders,” said Dr. Nancy Moran, Professor of Integrative Biology at The University of Texas at Austin College of Natural Sciences. “So if you disrupt the normal, stable community, you are more susceptible to this invasion of pathogens.”

Bee deaths from herbicides can lead to a reduction in crop production. This is largely because bees cross-fertilize pollen grains, leading to fruition, in farm crops. The European Union in April 2018 prohibited the use of neonicotinoids, a pesticide known to harm bees.

Over 1,500 studies point to the fact that bees die off when neonicotinoids are sprayed on plants growing in the neighborhoods where the insects frequent.

Nigel Raine, a professor at Canada’s University of Guelph, revealed that pesticides and herbicides destabilize normal bee behavior. The chemicals disrupt their learning skills and cause disorientation, reducing the natural abilities of the bees to choose flowers for pollination and to reproduce.

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