Saving the Bees: US Approves Innovative Vaccine for Pollinators

The honey bee – an important pollinator
The honey bee – an important pollinator, Credit: Wikimedia/Andreas Trepte

A Novel Vaccine for Honey Bees

Recently, the first vaccine in the world for honey bees was allowed to be used in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave a short-term license to the company, Dalen Animal Health, for the vaccine.

 

Honey bees, along with birds, bats, and other animals, help in a process known as pollination. Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male parts to the female parts of plants. Pollination leads to the formation of fruits and seeds. Pollinators are responsible for one-third of the crop production in the world.

 

However, a decrease in the number of honey bee colonies has been seen each year since 2006 in the U.S. This decrease is mostly due to factors such as parasites, pests, and diseases. These factors harm the health of bee colonies. Eventually, the worker bees of the colony leave the beehive and the queen of the colony behind. This phenomenon is known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

 

The vaccine made by Dalen Animal Health prevents disease and CCD. The bacterium, Paenibacillus larvae, is known to cause American foulbrood disease. The vaccine works by adding inactive bacteria into the food for the queen bee, known as royal jelly. Royal jelly is a milk-like substance made by worker bees to feed the queen and larvae. When the queen bee is fed royal jelly by the worker bees, some of the vaccine is stored in her ovaries, which are organs that play a role in reproduction. Therefore, the larvae of the queen bee become immune against the disease.

 

The American foulbrood disease is known to spread rapidly. This bacterial disease damages bee colonies by infecting the bee larvae. Furthermore, it cannot be treated. The only known cure has been to burn the colony of infected bees along with the hive. The approved vaccine will help by protecting bees from American foulbrood disease.

 

Soon, the vaccine will be made available to a few beekeepers. Eventually, it will be sold by the company in the U.S. this year. This vaccine may be a step in protecting honey bees from many more diseases in the future.

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 8.3

 

Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease: 61.2

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