The first-ever vaccine for honeybees to prevent American foulbrood disease, a fatal bacterial disease that can destroy honeybee colonies, has been approved by the United States Department of Agriculture.

On December 29, the USDA granted Diamond Animal Health, the collaborating manufacturer for Dalan Animal Health, a conditional vaccine license. It was described as the agency’s “first licensure of a honeybee product.”

In an email-based statement, the USDA stated, “We hope the availability of this product will aid in the prevention and/or treatment of the disease American Foulbrood in honeybees given their central role in American agriculture (e.g. pollination),”

American foulbrood disease is referred to on the website of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service as “one of the most widespread and the most destructive of the honey bee brood diseases.”

Dalan Animal Health, the manufacturer of the vaccine, stated in a statement on the 4th of January that in addition to antibiotic treatment, the primary method of treatment for American foulbrood disease has been the incineration of infected hives and bees.

“This is an exciting step forward for beekeepers, as we rely on antibiotic treatment that has limited effectiveness and requires lots of time and energy to apply to our hives,” according to Trevor Tauzer, owner of Tauzer Apiaries and a board member of the California State Beekeepers Association, in the release. “If we can prevent an infection in our hives, we can avoid costly treatments and focus our energy on other important elements of keeping our bees healthy.”

In the statement, Annette Kleiser, CEO of Dalan, referred to the vaccine as “a breakthrough in protecting honeybees”.

“Global population growth and changing climates will increase the importance of honeybee pollination to secure our food supply,” according to Kleiser’s statement. “We are ready to change how we care for insects, impacting food production on a global scale.”

The honeybee vaccine is not injected using a syringe, unlike conventional vaccines. According to Dalan’s statement, it is instead mixed into “queen feed,” which the worker bees consume. The vaccine is incorporated into royal jelly by the worker bees, which the queen bee consumes. According to Dalan, “fragments of the vaccine are deposited in her ovaries,” after the queen bee consumes the vaccine-laden royal jelly. The larvae of the queen will then be born immune to the disease.

According to Dalan, the vaccine will be sold in the United States in 2023.


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