There is a new buzz around the world of veterinary medicine in the United States concerning the honey bee (genus Apis, with many different species). With growing concern about bee health, mainly due to the rise of colony collapse disorder (CCD), the regulations around bee management have been increased in the United States. Starting in January 2017, beekeepers need to consult with and have a prescription/veterinary feed directive from a veterinarian before legally administering antibiotics to their bees.
There has been a lot of talk around the country lately about the disappearance of a species of bumblebee (Genus Bombus) from the U.S. While these bees do not make honey for us, they are extremely important for pollination of plants and crops. National news sources boomed in January 2017 with word that the rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) had been officially given federal protection by being listed as Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). The bee has seen a population decline of up to 90% when compared to population numbers in 1990.
Several factors have been identified as causing this decline. Climate change, habitat loss, disease, and pesticide use are considered the main threats to bumblebees as well as many other animals. One interesting reason that bees are particularly vulnerable is that their genome contains relatively few genes for disease resistance and detoxification of poisonous compounds when compared to other insects.
As veterinarians, many of us have heard the call and responded with enthusiasm. There is now a honey bee veterinary consortium to address the issues of antibiotic usage with keepers in light of the current crisis of antibiotic resistance. There is a website with a searchable database to find a veterinarian near you interested in working with bees. While many think this move was unnecessary and will prove to be tedious, many others found the issue of antibiotic resistance to be one that requires government management and close monitoring. Personally, I am excited to learn about bee diseases with regard to conservation and with the hope that I can help beekeepers as a knowledgeable resource as they manage their hives.