A widely used bee antibiotic may harm rather than help

Nov 02, 2011

Honey bee populations have been mysteriously falling for at least five years in the United States, but the cause of so-called colony collapse disorder (CCD) is still largely unknown.

In a report published Nov. 2 in the online journal , researchers report that a widely used in-hive medication may make bees more susceptible to toxicity of commonly used pesticides, and that this interaction may be at least partially responsible for the continuing population loss.

The researchers, led by David Hawthorne of University of Maryland, pre-treated healthy honey bees with the antibiotic oxytetracycline, and then exposed the bees to two pesticides that are commonly used in to control parasitic varroa mites. In both cases, the pre-treated bees were much more sensitive to than were bees that had not been treated.

The team suspected that oxytetracycline may interact with specific bee proteins called multiple drug resistance (MDR) transporters, making them less effective and therefore rendering the bee more at risk to the pesticides. To test this hypothesis, they pre-treated the bees with another drug, verapamil, which is known to inhibit a particular MDR transporter. These insects showed increased sensitivity to five different pesticides, supporting the group's theory that MDR transporters, and specific combinations of independently safe chemicals, may play an important role in CCD.

Explore further: Gardening's new ethos: Help the planet (and look good too)

More information: Hawthorne DJ, Dively GP (2011) 'Killing Them with Kindness? In-Hive Medications May Inhibit Xenobiotic Efflux Transporters and Endanger Honey Bees'. PLoS ONE 6(11): e26796. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026796

Related Stories

Antibiotic dangers trap bees in a Catch 22

Nov 02, 2011

Honey bees are trapped in a Catch 22 where antibiotics used to protect them from bacterial illnesses ravaging hives are making them die from commonly used pesticides, some of which are used to ward-off bee-killing ...

Fungus Foot Baths Could Save Bees

Jul 28, 2008

One of the biggest world wide threats to honey bees, the varroa mite, could soon be about to meet its nemesis. Researchers at the University of Warwick are examining naturally occurring fungi that kill the varroa mite. They ...

Recommended for you

Fish play a role in seed dispersal over large distances

2 hours ago

Fish can play a role in seed dispersal over large distances. Heavy seeds in particular pass undamaged through the mouths and intestines of fish and may end up being dispersed for miles, both in an upstream ...

Keeping hungry jumbos at bay

20 hours ago

Until now electric fences and trenches have proved to be the most effective way of protecting farms and villages from night time raids by hungry elephants. But researchers think they may have come up with ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.