Is a vaccine to help the health of honey bees in the works?

Is a vaccine to help the health of honey bees in the works?
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 4:30 PM EDT

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - The University of Georgia is working to develop the world’s first honey bee vaccine. WALB spoke to one of the doctors working on the pioneering project.

“First of all, I have to make clear that the intellectual owners of this is Dalan Animal Health. It’s a private company, a start-up that has recently moved into Athens. And we’re cooperating with Dalan to field truth their preparatory vaccine. We’re excited that Dalan has moved to Athens. They wanted to come to an institution that had a honey bee research program, and a veterinary college. And thought that Athens was a pretty good match. We’re glad to have them onboard. This is definitely a group collaborative effort,” Professor of Entomology at the University of Georgia and the Director of the UGA Bee Program, Dr. Keith Delaplane said.

Why do honey bees need a vaccine?

“Honey bees are kind of like the bats and the amphibians as far as groups of animals around the world that are having health problems in recent years. And there are many things that are contributing to this. It is exotic parasites, it’s the viruses that those parasites spread. It’s environmental pesticides. It’s just a big, bad mix of stressors that are making our honey bees die at very alarming rates over winter. So any new tool that we can give beekeepers to combat even one of these stressors is a big step in the right direction. And Dalan’s vaccine against American Foulbrood Disease is going to be an important tool in our bag,” Dr. Delaplane said.

Photos of honey bee hives from the University of Georgia Bee Program(Source: University of Georgia Bee Program)
Photos of honey bee hives from the University of Georgia Bee Program(Source: University of Georgia Bee Program)

Anybody who knows anything about agriculture knows honey bees are essential. We see them all over South Georgia helping the crops here. How does this vaccine work?

“It’s a fairly new branch of knowledge, in acquired immunity in insects. Essentially we take the pathogen, the disease, the germ itself, grind it up, and feed particles of this pathogen into the mothers. And somehow, those pathogen particles end up in her eggs. So that the embryo and the adult eventually emerging from that egg, already has the immunity to its mother’s disease,” Delaplane said. “So it’s a form of inherited immunity. It’s very exciting.”

How soon will we see this in use in agriculture?

“A lot of the problems remaining to us right now are just procedure. USDA wants to do purity testing for example, of the final shelf product. There are a lot of regulatory steps remaining, but we’re hopeful that within two years we might have a product out there that will really be giving help to beekeepers.”It’s the first step in a very exciting program,” Delaplane said. “And we’re glad to be part of it.”