World’s first vaccine for honeybees approved
The vaccine raises hopes of finding new ways to counter diseases that routinely ravage colonies vital for food pollination.
The US government has approved the world’s first vaccine for honeybees, which is a step that raises hopes of finding new ways to counter diseases that routinely ravage colonies vital for food pollination.
The vaccine, created by Dalan Animal Health, was approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and received a conditional license.
Dalan Animal Health is a US biotech company that helps protect honeybees from American foulbrood disease.
Annette Kleiser, chief executive of Dalan Animal Health, said, “Our vaccine is a breakthrough in protecting honeybees,” adding, “We are ready to change how we care for insects, impacting food production on a global scale.”
The vaccine, which will initially be available to commercial beekeepers, aims to protect against foulbrood.
What is foulbrood?
Foulbrood is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae that can weaken and kill hives. There is currently no cure for the disease. It was detected in a quarter of hives in different parts of the US, which drove beekeepers to destroy and burn any infected colonies and administer antibiotics, fearing any further spread.
“It’s something that beekeepers can easily recognize because it reduces the larvae to this brown goo that has a rancid stink to it,” said Keith Delaplane, an entomologist at the University of Georgia, which has partnered with Dalan for the vaccine’s development.
How does the vaccine operate?
The vaccine is administered through the bacteria into the royal jelly that the worker bees feed to the queen. The queen bee then consumes it and gains some of the vaccine in the ovaries. The bee larvae will then hatch having immunity to foulbrood with studies by Dalan suggesting this will reduce death rates from the disease.
“In a perfect scenario, the queens could be fed a cocktail within a queen candy – the soft, pasty sugar that queen bees eat while in transit,” Delaplane said. “Queen breeders could advertise ‘fully vaccinated queens.’”
American foulbrood originated in the US and has since spread around the world. Dalan said the breakthrough could be used to find vaccines for other bee-related diseases, such as the European version of foulbrood.
Due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and the climate crisis, wild bees are in alarming decline, fueling global concerns and putting ecosystems and human food security and health at risk.
Read more: Climate change may drastically reshape bees, affect pollination