US Department of Agriculture approves first-ever vaccine for honeybees

Honeybees, one of the planet's most important pollinators, have seen their numbers decline significantly in recent years due to a range of factors including climate change, habitat destruction, pesticide use, and diseases.

The US Department of Agriculture recently granted conditional approval for an insect vaccine developed by biotech firm Dalan Animal Health to protect honeybees from American foulbrood disease.

The vaccine contains dead Paenibacillus larvae, the bacteria that causes the disease, and is administered by mixing it with the food that worker bees eat.

The vaccine then makes its way into the royal jelly that drones feed to the queen. Her offspring will be born with some immunity to the bacteria.

Scientists previously thought it was impossible for insects to obtain immunity to diseases, but after identifying a protein that prompts an immune response in bees, researchers realized they could protect an entire hive through a single queen.

The vaccine is also a more humane treatment for American foulbrood, which can wipe out colonies of 60,000 bees and often leaves beekeepers with no choice but to burn infected hives.

Dalan hopes to use the vaccine as a blueprint for other treatments to protect honeybees.

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