Glyphosate contributes to colony collapse disorder

According to a study posted on PNAS, the most popular herbicide in the world (Roundup and derived products) causes disruption in the microbiome of honeybees, shortening their lifespans considerably. Monsanto, of course, denies it.

I find this to be disturbing news, if it is legitimate.

Shit. Everyone knows the bees are in trouble. They make the whole thing work. I’m back on the “Monsanto is evil” train!

Trump will blame the bees.

It’s disturbing, because I don’t see the world being willing to limit the use of glyphosate any time soon.

But there’s a possible faint glimmer of hope in there too - it’s the gut flora of the bees that are affected, not the bees themselves directly - this is the sort of thing where resistance to the chemical could arise.

Wow. I’d like to see this study independently verified - not just peer-reviewed - and then Glyphosate banned if this is confirmed. We’ve already made a good start on protecting bees by banning neonicotenoids.

Unless I missed something, the linked paper does not say that glyphosate contributes to colony collapse disorder (CCD).

It concludes that honeybees exposed to glyphosate have altered gut microbiomes which rendered the bees more susceptible to one opportunistic pathogen (Serratia). Since we still don’t have a good handle on what causes CCD (many different factors have been implicated; Serratia is not a prominent suspect) it would be an unjustifiable leap to say Aha! Roundup is killing the bees!

I see a number of questions needing answers, including the following. Have there been systematic evaluations of environmental glyphosate levels surrounding hives thought to have been affected by CCD? Have sufficient numbers of dead bees had their gut flora analyzed in order to make conclusions about whether it was significantly changed, and by what? Is feeding bees glyphosate-laced sucrose solutions an accurate proxy for visiting flowers of glyphosate-treated weeds? What are the effects of other herbicides (synthetic or “organic”) on bee microflora (if glyphosate is banned, other herbicides will become much more prevalent).

IIRC this has already been studied numerous times and no connection was found.

Well, yeah, but that wouldn’t make for a very good story, now would it?

This is one of those study result revelations that bolsters the FrankenFood/GMO-Labeling hype – despite the fact that, technically speaking, the revelation is about an applied chemical rather than manipulation of a gene. It just gets thrown into the same big bucket as other Giant Corporate (Agri)business is Harming the World in the Name of Profit revelations.

It would be great if the bees’ gut-flora could develop a resistance, but how quickly can that occur? Furthermore, if the flora in the bees’ guts can develop a resistance to glyphosate, couldn’t the flora in the pest-insects’ guts (or the pests themselves) also develop resistances? Then it’s just a race – over which we have little to no influence – for whether the bees or the unwanted pests develop their resistances first. And if/when the pests develop their resistance, then we’re back to “What else can we do to this crop to battle the pests?”


Do people really spend millions upon millions
To make us think we care about the planet…
At the same time polluting and looting the only world we’ve got
So they can maximize their profit?
People do!
…–Jackson Browne
…Information Wars
…Looking East

Glyphosate is not a pesticide, it is a herbicide.

  1. N = 45 bees. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit ability to generalize with a small sample.

  2. they had a control, and two levels of dosage group. The resulting gut flora levels are all over the place, and the bees that got a smaller dose of glyphosate appear to be affected more than the heavier dose. Some handwaving is done to explain it.

  3. apparently the affected bees were painted, I didn’t see any discussion about this being a confound. Other bees may treat them differently.

Nitpick: “pesticide” is an umbrella term for something applied to control organisms that negatively affect the health of plants (including insects and weeds). Glyphosate qualifies as a pesticide, since weeds are viewed as pestilential.

That’s where I go “Yeah, no, try again later.” A tiny study where the effect of a supposed deadly agent isn’t dose dependent?

Interestingly enough, CCD isn’t really an issue these days- in 2015, beehive numbers hit a 20 year high, for example.

shhhhhh… don’t dampen my Monsanto Hate Buzz!!