Can you imagine a world without honey? It’s a depressing thought, but according to a new study, honeybees are increasingly in danger of deadly infections. What’s the culprit? Look no further than the world’s most popular weed killer, glyphosate.
But this isn’t the first time weed killers have been known to damage honeybees.
What The Previous Reports Said
Previous studies reported that harmful pesticides, including neonicotinoids, can damage honeybees’ abilities to pollinate. As we all learned in school, pollination is a vital function in the food chain and a crucial process for nearly three-quarters of food farms.
Thanks to a new study from the University of Texas at Austin, researchers have learned the weed killer glyphosate, manufactured by Monsanto, is damaging a lot more than the bees’ abilities to pollinate; it’s killing them.
Observing The Bees
Researchers learned bees “lose some of the beneficial bacteria in their guts and are more susceptible to infection and death from harmful bacteria.”
The only way to test this theory, however, was to subject bees to levels of glyphosate commonly found in the weed killer used for crop fields, yard, and roadsides. After three days, the exposed bees already showed signs of a “significantly reduced healthy gut microbiota.”
It wasn’t long after the experiment that the bees began dying from the exposure, and that’s when researchers knew the severity of using glyphosate.
Supporting The Facts
It was previously reported that bees weren’t harmed by herbicides. However, according to Erick Motta, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, this isn’t true.
“We need better guidelines for glyphosate use, especially regarding bee exposure,” Motta said.
But Motta’s research isn’t the only data supporting this study. Other research from China reported in July that honeybee larvae grew more slowly and died more often after being exposed to weed killer.
Another study, conducted in 2015, showed that adult bees exposed to high levels of glyphosate have an increased chance of impairing “the cognitive capacities needed for a successful return to the hive.”
Denying The Truth
But Monsanto, whose product Roundup contains the herbicide, has denied the findings of research into the harmful levels of glyphosate.
A representative commented, “Claims that glyphosate has a negative impact on honeybees are simply not true.”
Glyphosate isn’t the only harmful threat to the honeybee population.
Bees and other pollinators are affected by the same environmental challenges as other endangered species, including habitat loss, degradation, diseases, pollution, fragmentation, and climate change.
As is the case for many animals, we need honeybees. Bees pollinate about 80% of wildflowers, and as noted, play a key role in the food chain. We may take them for granted, but we shouldn’t. Bees help plants grow, breed and produce the food we consume—including almonds, vanilla, apples, and squash. If you like those foods and other plants, thank a honeybee today.
After all, they keep you fed. Isn’t that a reason to be treated well?