If you haven’t heard, some of our most important pollinators are under attack. Honey bees are not only important in producing products such as honey and beeswax, but they are hugely important in pollinating crops. In fact, they contribute to roughly 20 billion dollars to the value of crops by increasing yields and providing higher quality crops and some crops rely heavily on pollination by honey bees, such as blueberries, cherries, and almonds.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a major cause of colony loss in the United States, but unfortunately, its pathogenesis is not well understood. The leading theory comprises multiple factors including pathogens, parasites, pesticides, and poor nutrition along with several others. Artificial food sources aren’t fulfilling the nutritional needs and pesticides can have toxic to lethal effects on honey bees. So what does this have to do with vets?
Veterinarians can play a key role in helping keep honey bee colonies safe, and along with them, the safety of our food supply. Just like many other living organisms, insects can be infected by an assortment of pathogens including bacterial infections, and just like our more typical domestic patients they can be treated with antibiotics. Because bees are considered to be food animals, they also fall under the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) and so vets play an important role in overseeing the administration of certain antibiotics.
Honey bees are fascinating creatures with a complex family unit that requires extensive knowledge of colony function. Although very different than our normal domesticated animals, we can be well trained to help treat honey bees through the National Veterinary Accreditation Program. If you are interested in food security and honey bee health, consider the accreditation program and finding how you can become involved!