Vaccine for Honeybees
A vaccine for honeybees has been conditionally approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, developed by Dalan Animal Health, Athens, GA. This a prophylactic (preventative) vaccine protects honeybees from American foulbrood, an aggressive and deadly bacterium that spreads fast within hives and from hive to hive.
This is a huge step in the right direction to save honeybees, as well as technology of the future which could have other applications.
Visions of beekeepers attempting to catch each individual of the thousands of bees in a hive, and then somehow using a mini syringe to vaccinate are kind of crazy. Instead, the vaccine is incorporated into royal jelly, a sugar feed given to queen bees. Once the Queen’s ingest it, the vaccine is then deposited into their ovaries, giving all future developing larvae immunity to the bacterium.
This is the first vaccine of its kind, and the first vaccine for insects.
By pollinating food as they feed on pollen and nectar, honeybees pollinate about one-third of the food crops in the United States and help produce an estimated $15 billion worth of U.S. crops annually. Many beekeepers lease their hives across the country to assist in pollination of almonds, pears, cherries, apples and other types of produce.
At least three-quarters of flowering plants require the assistance of insect pollinators, including bees, butterflies and moths, to produce fruit and seeds. Bats and birds do the rest.
Up until now, there has been no effective treatment for American foulbrood. However, that’s not the only challenge bees face.
Currently, there are several species of bees listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. In 2017, the rusty patched bumblebee became the first bumblebee species to be listed as endangered. A year prior in 2016, seven varieties of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees were listed as endangered. Today, all bee species in the U.S. are under intense pressure. About a quarter of U.S. native bees have significantly declined due to habitat loss, pesticides, diminishment of plants they depend on, invasive insect species, a tiny parasite called the Varroa mite and climate change.