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Overuse of antibiotics brings risks for bees and for us

efectos del sobreuso de los antibióticos

The overuse of antibiotics in both humans and humans is a long-term health hazard. In the case of bees, they reduce their chances of survival by half, as it destroys their intestinal flora and makes them weaker. The bee, like the human being, has an intestinal flora, and the same thing could be happening to us. As we can see, the knowledge of bees contributes many to our well-being, not only the production of raw honey.

From El Cortijuelo de San Benito you will be able to discover all the novelties of beekeeping, bees and honeys. We also offer you the widest variety of raw honeys in Spain and Europe: rosemary honey, thyme, lavender, heather, manuka… as well as a great variety of extra virgin olive oils.

Learn more about antibiotics and visit our other article The development of new antibiotics

Reduces the survival of honey bees

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin in the United States have found that bees treated with commonly used antibiotics had half the chance of survival than bees that were not treated. A discovery that could have great repercussions on the health of both honey bees and men.

Scientists have found that antibiotics kill all the beneficial bacteria in the bees’ gut, allowing malignant pathogens easy entry. This could also happen in humans, being also the gateway for other foreign organisms. Therefore, this last discovery warns us about the damages that an overuse of antibiotics can cause, which can aggravate illnesses.

Reduction of the intestinal flora of bees

This research team from the University of Texas at Austin in the United States, led by Professor Nancy Moral and postdoctoral researcher Kasie Taymann, discovered that after treatment with a common antibiotic, tetracycline, the intestinal flora of microbes in the intestine of bees was greatly reduced, that is to say, they harbored in their intestines smaller quantity of healthy bacteria, which help to block and destroy malignant pathogens, promote the absorption of nutrients of the ingested food, among the most important benefits that this intestinal flora contributes to the bees.

They also found in bees treated with antibiotics high levels of Serratin, a pathogenic bacterium that attacks humans and other animals, indicating these results that increased mortality of bees could be the result of a loss of beneficial intestinal flora, which provides a natural defense against malignant bacteria.

Another cause of bee collapse

This discovery has a great relevance for beekeepers and the agricultural industry, because about ten years ago, beekeepers in the United States began to find their winter hives very decimated, this phenomenon began to be called the collapse of the hive. The beehives were in perfect condition in autumn, and after the winter, only the queen was left with a few worker bees, that is, a colony with very little chance of surviving. This seriously affects the agricultural industry, leaving their crops without pollinators to pollinate the flowers of their crops. Honey lovers are also harmed, as the bees, and therefore the delicacy they make, raw honey, could disappear.

At present, the scientific community believes that this phenomenon is due to several reasons: exposure to pesticides, loss of habitat and bacterial infections and parasites, mainly varroa.  Now, after this publication, scientists are also beginning to think that antibiotics could play an important role in this phenomenon that is killing honey bees around the world.

According to Moran, this study suggests that with the use of antibiotics we are disturbing the intestinal flora of bees, being one factor among others that could make them more susceptible to diseases and being another cause of the collapse of the hive. Therefore, antibiotics may be an underestimated factor that researchers should be more aware of.

Photo 1: Treatments for bees

Our Intestinal Floral

Melliferous bees, bees used commercially for honey production, and their intestinal flora are worth studying, not only to save them and keep them from extinction, but for many reasons that we will see below: First, both bees and humans have an intestinal flora, which provides enormous health benefits, such as modulation of behavior, proper development of the organism, and strengthening of the immune system. Second, we both have a specialized intestinal flora, which only lives in the host intestine and is passed from mother to child. Therefore, understanding the functioning of bees will help to better understand our own human body.

Back to antibiotics. The researchers in that study are not suggesting that people stop taking antibiotics, because antibiotics save lives. According to them, what we clearly need is for people to use them only when they need them, because overuse of antibiotics can increase the likelihood that infections of pathogenic organisms will develop in our body by destroying the beneficial intestinal flora that protects us.

In large-scale agriculture in the USA, beekeepers normally use antibiotics in their bee hives several times a year, in order to prevent bacterial infections that could be triggered in adult bees and bee larvae.

The problem usually arises with agglomeration, if there were only a few hundred bees, the hive might not need the use of antibiotics as a preventive, the problem arises with the large agglomeration of bees, which if an infection spreads rapidly, could kill all the hives of the beekeeper, leading to the bankruptcy of their business selling honey.

An example of disease that beekeepers prevent is American foulbrood, but as Raymann says, after conducting this research, what beekeepers should reconsider is how much and how often they should use antibiotics in their honey bee hives.

Method of study

To carry out the study, the researchers removed hundreds of bees from a beehive that had been established for quite some time on the roof of a university building and took them to a laboratory. Here some were fed a sweet syrup with some antibiotics and others were fed only syrup. To differentiate them, the researchers painted small colored dots on the backs of bees that received antibiotics and those that did not receive antibiotics were not painted.

After five days of daily treatment, the bees returned to their hives. After a few days in the hives. The researchers collected both treated and untreated bees in order to count how many were still living and to take samples of their intestinal flora.

The results were as follows: about two-thirds of the untreated bees were still present three days after reintroduction into the hive, while only one-third of those treated with antibiotics were still present.

With the intention of giving more weight to this hypothesis that bees treated with antibiotics suffer higher mortality due to an afflicted intestinal flora that makes them weaker against pathogenic American foulbrood bacteria. The researchers conducted another experiment in which they exposed antibiotic-treated bees to American foulbrood and observed much higher mortality in antibiotic-treated bees than in untreated bees.

These investigations have been done on honey-producing melliferous bees, but it may not be happening to ourselves when we take antibiotics, Raymann said. I think we should be more careful with the use of antibiotics.

A group of biologists at the University of California, San Diego have shown for the first time that an insecticide widely used in a large number of agricultural crops, neonicotinoids, can significantly impair the ability of bees to fly. Further evidence shows the enormous damage these insecticides are doing to bees, affecting their ability to pollinate crops and wildflowers, the production of raw honey and the long-term effects they have on bee colonies.

Previous research had shown that the bees that ingested these pesticides, the neonicotinoids, were less likely to return home, leading to increased disappearance of pecorator bees. Bees that collect food sources, nectar, pollen and myelates to feed the hive and for honey processing.

A study carried out by the researchers, Simone Tosi, senior researcher at the University of California, San Diego in the United States, James Nieh, professor of biology and his associate professor Giovanni Burgio at the University of Bologno in Italy, which was published on April 26, 2017 in the scientific journal “Scientific Reports” describes in detail how neonicotinoid pesticides, exactly the thiamethoxam harms bees enormously. Thiamethoxam is commonly used in crops such as corn, soybeans and cotton.

To test the hypothesis that this pesticide impairs the bees’ ability to fly, the researchers designed and created a flight mill of their own, that is, an instrument to test the bees’ ability to fly. This allowed them to analyze the flight patterns of the bees under constant and controlled conditions.

After months of testing and data collection, they found that under typical levels of exposure to neonicotenoid insecticides, to which bees that pecorate the flowers of agricultural crops are normally subjected, to feed their hives and raw honey processing, and although these levels are below lethal, the results showed very clearly the great damage they cause to bees in their ability to fly.

The results of this research leave no doubt that exposure to these insecticides to which bees are subjected during pecoreo, do great damage to the health of the hives, altering their ability to fly. In addition, flying is the only way they can collect food, nectar and pollen. On the other hand, their ability to fly and pollinate flowers is crucial to ensure the pollination of crops, wild plants and the production of raw honey from our hives.

Also, long-term exposures over one or two days to these pesticides reduced the bees’ ability to fly significantly. Short-term exposures led to a brief increase in their activity levels. The bees flew farther, but based on previous studies, more erratically.

According to Nieh, a professor at the Biological Sciences Unit at the University of California, San Diego: “Bees that fly more erratically for longer distances would decrease their likelihood of returning home and not getting lost on the way.

Pesticides don’t immediately kill bees normally, but if they have a subtle effect that weakens them and any other added factor can easily kill them, as he said in the publication Nieh.

“Bees are a highly social organism, so the behavior of thousands of bees is essential to the survival of the hive,” Nieh said. “We have been able to demonstrate that one dose of insecticide, although at non-lethal doses, affects the entire colony.

Bees perform vital roles in nature that are fundamental to the ecosystem ecosystem; the pollination of agricultural crops and native plants. The declining population of honey bees has increased the world’s awareness of future impacts on the environment, food security and human well-being. For consumers of quality honey, raw honey would be catastrophic.

Neonicotinoid insecticides are neurotoxic and are being used worldwide for a wide variety of crops, including fruits and vegetables that fill all our fruit shops. Farmers disseminate them through atomization and applications in soil and seeds. Evidence of these insecticides is found in the nectar, flower pollen and water that bees collect for their honey production and for feeding their hives.

“People are starting to become aware of the big problems that bees are suffering. Their health status is being damaged by the proximity of products that are treated for agricultural and industrial purposes,” Nieh said. “The vast majority of the fruits and vegetables we consume are pollinated by bees.

The bee problem is serious, and we can solve it whenever we demand that our governments investigate and legislate in favor of bees. We should also do our bit, using less insecticides and other chemicals that harm the bees we often use in our homes and gardens. Another thing we can do is support our local beekeepers by consuming their royal jelly, pollen and raw honey.



Revista científica internacional Phys Org. 26 de abril del 2017. Common pesticide damages honey bee’s ability to fly.

Revista científica “Science Daily”. Overuse of antibiotics risk for bees, and for us.

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