There is nothing unusual about hearing the topic of vaccines come up regularly on the news and other social media platforms. However, this week, the topic of bee vaccines may have caused some to take a second look, and rightly so. The United States government has granted a conditional for commercial beekeepers to use a vaccine to help protect the honeybees from disease. The disease has plagued honeybee colonies across the nation and is now a problem worldwide. As concerns grow for America’s food production as well as the overall condition of the environment, this vaccine may prove to be a resourceful solution to helping reduce the declining bee populations.
Foulbrood Disease Vaccination
The disease that is taking out entire honeybee colonies is American Foulbrood. In response to concerns of the Department of Agriculture and beekeepers nationwide, a biotech company designed the approved bee vaccine to be ingested in the hive, strengthening the ability of new bees to fight off the disease successfully. The vaccine alleviates the amount of time previously required to treat hives with antibiotics, and the results were inconsistent. The approval of the bee vaccine frees dedicated beekeepers to other critical elements of keeping bees happy and healthy.
Since Foulbrood transfers easily between hives, turning larvae into a brown and rotting mess, the hives have been destroyed to protect other hives until now. Unfortunately, once a hive is determined to have Foulbrood disease, it must be burned to prevent the spreading. The disease, also called Paenibacillus larvae, affects baby bees in the larvae stage. The vaccine will contain some of the bacteria mixed with the royal jelly to be consumed by the queen. The hope is that by the queen ingesting the vaccine, it will pass to the new offspring and give them greater immunity. The vaccine can be used in organic agriculture, and its targeted approach protects other pollinators and the environment.
Bee Vaccine Granted in Response to Foulbrood Emergency
The bee vaccine was granted conditionally as a response to what is being called an emergency status of bee populations. Although the numbers vary significantly from one source to another about how much of America’s food population relies on bees, they are undoubtedly critical to pollination, which is responsible for our food sources.
In 2019, beekeepers lost more than 40% of their honeybee colonies. Although Foulbrood is not the only reason for this grave loss, it was one of the explanations. Decreased diversity among crops, loss of habitat, and inexperienced or poor beekeeping are also responsible for some of the loss. Pesticides are known to weaken the bee’s immune system, making it more difficult for them to fight off disease. So, overuse or careless use of pesticides does more harm than good for bees and other essential pollinators.
Bee Vaccine is the First Insect Vaccine in the United States
It is impossible to overlook how monumental this conditional grant is for beekeepers. Bees are the first insect to get many protections, including being protected under the California Endangered Species Act. Additionally, measures are now in place to ensure bee testing is done humanely. The critical role of bees in pollination, and the extension of that role, are making way for other insects to be protected. California remains one of the most progressive states when it comes to environmental activism, which now includes animal and insect rights.
Scientists have identified many deadly viruses and pests responsible for decimating honeybee colonies worldwide. This vaccine could pave the way for further measures to stop declining bee populations.
The passing of the use of the bee vaccine is good news for beekeepers in the United States and worldwide. As with humans, antibiotics can get rid of the good microbes and weaken the immune system, so a vaccine is a promising solution for beekeepers everywhere. Although only approved conditionally for commercial beekeepers, if the rolling out of the vaccine does what it did in trials, the vaccine may become available to local beekeepers in the future. The best beekeepers understand the heartiness and fragility of hives and do everything they can to protect them from mites and other diseases.
The approval of the honeybee vaccine is in line with other measures to help bees and other pollinators due to their critical role in our nation’s food production. Since honeybees are often moved around the country to help pollinate different crops, providing protection through this vaccine is a breakthrough. Many consider bees to be livestock, and entomologists could not be more thrilled that bees are finally getting some of the same tools and attention they deserve. Since this is the first insect vaccine created and approved, its success may change the industry altogether. Finding accessible solutions to prevent rapidly declining bee populations is a win for our plants, trees, flowers, crops, and ecosystem!