Glyphosate, but not its metabolite AMPA, alters the honeybee gut microbiota

The honeybee (Apis mellifera) has to cope with multiple environmental stressors, especially pesticides. Among those, the herbicide glyphosate and its main metabolite, the aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), are among the most abundant and ubiquitous contaminant in the environment. Through the foraging and storing of contaminated resources, honeybees are exposed to these xenobiotics. As ingested glyphosate and AMPA are directly in contact with the honeybee gut microbiota, we used quantitative PCR to test whether they could induce significant changes in the relative abundance of the major gut bacterial taxa. Glyphosate induced a strong decrease in Snodgrassella alvi, a partial decrease of a Gilliamella apicola and an increase in Lactobacillus spp. abundances. In vitro, glyphosate reduced the growth of S. alvi and G. apicola but not Lactobacillus kunkeei. Although being no bee killer, we confirmed that glyphosate can have sublethal effects on the honeybee microbiota. To test whether such imbalanced microbiota could favor pathogen development, honeybees were exposed to glyphosate and to spores of the intestinal parasite Nosema ceranae. Glyphosate did not significantly enhance the effect of the parasite infection. Concerning AMPA, while it could reduce the growth of G. apicola in vitro, it did not induce any significant change in the honeybee microbiota, suggesting that glyphosate is the active component modifying the gut communities.