A study has purportedly suggested that antibiotic treatments for foulbrood and other pathogens can disrupt the gut microbiota of honeybees, increasing their susceptibility to opportunistic bacterial infections. Kasie Raymann, et al., “Antibiotic exposure perturbs the gut microbiota and elevates mortality in honeybees,” PLoS Biology, March 2017. To examine the effects of common bee antibiotics, University of Texas researchers followed specimens from a single hive that received either sugar water or tetracycline.

Their results evidently showed “that honeybees treated with antibiotics and returned to the hive had decreased survivorship when compared to untreated bees.” The authors further note, “Control bees had, on average, five times more bacterial cells in their guts than bees treated with tetracycline.” Tetracycline also failed to eliminate the targeted bacterial species in the treated bees, raising questions among the researchers about antibiotic resistance in domestic bee populations.

“The aim of the study was for us to better understand the role of the microbiota in the biology of bees, and more generally understand the consequences of disrupting the microbiome in an animal host,” said the lead author. See Popular Science, March 15, 2017.