Antibiotics the Latest Threat to Our Bees

antibiotics bees

By Heather Callaghan, Editor

...what we do to the bees we do to ourselves... Click to Tweet

Likewise, “it seems that what we do to ourselves we are more than happy to carelessly inflict on any other living thing, including our bees,” says an editorial campaign by NYR Natural News.

The report raised eyebrows with this note:

While most of us know about the harm that agricultural pesticides do to bees, few may know that we also douse our bees with antibiotics. Beekeepers do this in much the same way as some doctors do with humans – “just in case”.

In large-scale agriculture, particularly in the US and China, bees are essentially ‘factory farmed‘ and beekeepers may apply antibiotics to their hives several times a year – a strategy aimed at preventing bacterial infections that can decimate hives.


The practice leaves residues of antibiotics in our honey – a potential health hazard for humans who consume the honey – and, of course, it’s bad news for the bees too.

Bees have a microbiome, too

We tend to focus on the role of pesticides in pollinator declines because we understand the vicious cycle of the chemical corporations and their involvement with the government through lobbying and lying to regulatory agencies that their products are safe this time. Heck, they’ve been caught repeatedly funding large scientific initiatives that…whaddyaknow...conclude that pesticides aren’t involved in any way in the health of bees.

Those researchers won’t tell you that a bee can die within minutes of slight exposure to systemic neonicotinoids. Or that glyphosate is now found in organic honey samples across the nation. Or that bees are often fed GMO corn syrup and sugar. Those researchers know where they aren’t allowed to look if they wanted to continue getting paid.

However, the issue of bee health is more complex than “spray and die.” Although that does happen!

Bees have a delicate gut microbiome as humans do – and their health depends on it functioning optimally. A little known practice is harming that balance…

Antibiotics on Bees

A recent study from the University of Texas found that honeybees treated with an antibiotic, tetracycline, were “half as likely to survive the week after treatment compared to untreated bees.” Tetracycline is also common in agricultural use.

Researchers surmised that the antibiotics killed good gut bacteria needed to keep pathogens in check and break down nutrients.

Serratia is a pathogenic bacterium that afflicts humans and animals and is found in elevated levels in bees treated with antibiotics. Repeated use may be causing resistance, too.

The Bigger Picture

Various researchers often point to all sorts reasons for Colony Collapse Disorder – climate change, hobby bee farmers, diesel exhaust, global trade, mites and other disease conditions, and even EMF signals, which are in fact known to scramble the inner compass of birds. Those things are involved – however, they don’t honor the greater tapestry of what’s at stake.

Pat Thomas of NYR Natural News made a plea to The Ecologist in 2008 called “Give Bees a Chance.” Back then, he saw the writing on the wall, and hypothesized that the one thing that connected all the various theories was a “massive failure of these creatures’ immune systems.” (Personally, I’ve always thought this, too, especially when comparisons of bee health are made to human biology.)

He says:

Bees, like humans, have a natural community of microbes in their guts, the ‘microbiome’, which helps modulate behaviour, development and immunity. Also like human bees have specialised gut bacteria that get passed from individual to individual during social interactions.

The research is another illustration of how the indiscriminate use of antibiotics can cause widespread and unintended harm.

I echo Pat’s suggestion to go organic and align yourselves with organic product brands. But here in the States, we need to do more to encourage large-scale beekeepers to stop using antibiotics “just because” and to think about the long-term impact. We can voice our adamant refusal to support honey makers that feed bees GMO garbage and knowingly expose them to glyphosate and continue encouraging farmers to stop using bee killing pesticides.

With our pollinators closing in on endangered status – it’s long past the time to make demands.


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Image Credit

Natural Blaze / CC SA-4.0 / eBook

 favorite-velva-smallHeather Callaghan is an independent researcher, writer, speaker and food freedom activist. She is the Editor and co-founder of NaturalBlaze as well as a certified Self-Referencing IITM Practitioner.

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