The last time we checked on the status of America’s honey bees, the “bee-pocalyse” had been called off, and things were looking better as of 2017.
The number of U.S. honeybees, a critical component to agricultural production, rose in 2017 from a year earlier, and deaths of the insects attributed to a mysterious malady that’s affected hives in North America and Europe declined, according a U.S. Department of Agriculture honeybee health survey released Tuesday.
The number of commercial U.S. honeybee colonies rose 3 percent to 2.89 million as of April 1, 2017 compared with a year earlier, the Agriculture Department reported. The number of hives lost to Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon of disappearing bees that has raised concerns among farmers and scientists for a decade, was 84,430 in this year’s first quarter, down 27 percent from a year earlier. Year-over-year losses declined by the same percentage in April through June, the most recent data in the survey.
Now a biotech company in Georgia has received conditional approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the first vaccine for honeybees.
The company, Dalan Animal Health, which is based in Athens, Ga., developed a prophylactic vaccine that protects honeybees from American foulbrood, an aggressive bacterium that can spread quickly from hive to hive. Previous treatments included burning infected colonies and all of the associated equipment, or using antibiotics. Diamond Animal Health, a manufacturer that is collaborating with Dalan, holds the conditional license.
Dalail Freitak, an associate professor in honeybee research at the Karl-Franzens University of Graz in Austria and chief science officer for Dalan, said the vaccine could help change the way scientists approach animal health.
“There are millions of beehives all over the world, and they don’t have a good health care system compared to other animals,” she said. “Now we have the tools to improve their resistance against diseases.”
The vaccine is fed to the worker bees and should be available for use soon.
Unlike traditional vaccines, the honeybee vaccine isn’t injected with a syringe. Instead, it’s mixed into “queen feed,” which the worker bees consume, according to Dalan’s statement. The worker bees incorporate the vaccine into royal jelly, which they feed to the queen bee. Once the queen bee has consumed the vaccine-laden royal jelly, “fragments of the vaccine are deposited in her ovaries,” says Dalan. Then the queen’s larvae will be born with immunity to the disease.
Dalan says that the vaccine will be available for purchase in the United States in 2023.
Of course, “experts” will push the “global pollinator crisis” nonetheless.
The global decline of honeybee populations is a serious issue in our modern world. In the US alone, intensive farming techniques, harmful pesticides, and climate change, among other factors, have led to a 90 percent decline in bee populations since 1962, leading to what’s looking to be a ‘global pollinator crisis’.
That incredible loss not only puts natural ecosystems in a vulnerable position, it also risks a third of the global food supply and the basic nutrition of our own species.
A recent study from Harvard University, published in December of last year, found inadequate pollination is reducing the global yield of fruits, vegetables, and nuts by 3 to 5 percent.
As a result, many people will struggle to access healthy food options, leading to an estimated 427,000 excess deaths from ill health.
Let’s hope the vaccine for the honeybees is both safe and effective and doesn’t drive the creation of more potent mutations.DONATE
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