Summary: The demise of wild bee populations through temperature changes, land-use and biodiversity loss are putting added strain on commercialised honeybee populations and impacting pollination and ultimately food crop yields. One of the most impactful diseases, American foulbrood, now has an approved vaccine.
Why this is important: Research estimates that the loss of pollinators is causing 427,000 excess deaths each year worldwide, due to the reduction in the availability of nutritious foods ranging from fruit and vegetables to nuts.
The big theme: Zero hunger and good health and well-being are two of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Food and water are essential for life. Plants including their seed-bearing structures (fruit, vegetables and nuts) provide important nutrients to humans directly and indirectly through livestock consumption. To reproduce, flowering plants need to be pollinated and one important vehicle for pollination is the humble bee. Changing temperatures, land-use and biodiversity loss are leading to declines in wild bee populations putting added strain on commercialised honeybee populations in particular through their exposure to disease. Both physical and pharmacological solutions could rejuvenate those populations.
Summary of a story from The Guardian
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has granted a conditional license to US biotech company Dalan Animal Health (Dalan) for a vaccine for honeybees against American foulbrood disease (AFB). This makes it the world’s first approved vaccine for honeybees. AFB which has spread worldwide and has decimated colonies that provide food pollination, is caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae and can be fatal to hives. It is currently found in 25% of US hives and there is currently no cure. The Dalan vaccine works by incorporating some of the bacteria into the royal jelly that is fed by worker bees to the queen. Developing bee larvae are then given immunity to the disease as they hatch.