USDA Approves Vaccine for Disease Impacting Honeybees
We've been hearing about the rapid decline of honeybee populations for several years now. There are a number of reasons given, ranging from disease and pesticide use to habitat destruction and climate change.
The US Department of Agriculture recently gave conditional approval to a company called Dalan Animal Health for a vaccine to be given to honeybee colonies to immunize them against one of the diseases that can wipe out entire colonies, American foulbrood disease.
When we think of vaccines, we usually think of injections and needles. That's not how the honeybee vaccine works. The vaccine isn't injected into the bees, but mixed into the food for the hive's queen, referred to as queen candy. Worker bees process the vaccine-laden food, turning it into 'royal jelly', which is then fed to the queen. The vaccine is transferred to the eggs the queen lays, and the bees that hatch from the eggs will be immunized against the disease.
According to the USDA and FDA, about one third of our food crops are pollinated by bees and other pollinators. Without them, staples like almonds, apples, broccoli, melons, berries, pumpkins, and squash would not be as plentiful as they are at present. That's in addition to honey, of course.
If the potential hit to our food isn't impactful enough, let's look at the economic impact. The USDA says that without pollinators like honeybees, the US would lose $18 billion in crop production revenue every year, plus an estimated $700 million in products produced by bees, like honey and beeswax.