Hearing that scientists just got conditional approval for their honeybee vaccine, I wondered how you vaccinate a bee.
This is the story (and why it matters).
The Honeybee Vaccine
Biotech company Dalan Animal Health, Inc. just got a conditional license from the USDA for a vaccine that will protect honeybees from American Foulbrood disease. Called the worst honeybee disease by Michigan State scientists, American Foulbrood is a “highly contagious” and longlasting bacterium that destroys hives. While incineration had been the main treatment, now the worker bees that feed the queen have the solution. The nectar that they predigest and then feed her mouth-to-mouth will have the vaccine mixed in. Included with her royally delivered “meals,” the vaccine travels to her ovaries where larvae are exposed to it. Immune before they hatch, the larvae can expect to be disease-free.
According to the USDA more than 90 crops require the insect pollination that we get from honeybee colonies. Ranging from almonds to blueberries, they compose more than one third of the crops we produce. As a $15 billion industry, our beekeepers travel around the country to make pollination possible.
On tractor trailers and flatbed trucks, beekeepers move many thousnad of hives that are home to billions of bees. These are their routes:
Plant Pollinators’ Routes
Our Bottom Line: Land, Labor, and Capital
Having lived in cities and suburbia, I (maybe like you) imagine farms with acres of crops that are planted and harvested by tractors and havesters. To this image, I now need to add beekeepers as a crucial example of capital. And we can remember what Benoit Mandelbroit said about the coast of England.)
But what I find most mind boggling is how the bees get the vaccine.
My sources and more: To start, Wildflower Meadows describes how queen bees are fed. After that, it was easier to understand vaccine treatment. But if you still want more about American Foulbrood and pollination, here and here are possibilities. Also please note that I worry about accuracy when I say commercial pollination is a $15 billion industry. Articles everywhere since 2013 have used that number. Our featured image is a queen bee.