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MA Bee Veterinarian Project

Training Veterinarians to Work With Honey Bees

 

In January 2017, in an effort to delay antibiotic resistance, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented new regulations that require a written statement (i.e., Veterinary Feed Direction) from a licensed veterinarian for use of medically important antibiotics in or on animal feed. This includes the antibiotic Terramycin, which is applied to honey bee colonies to treat a relatively common bacterial infection called European Foulbrood (EFB). 

 

Here is the problem: Veterinarians in the United States have not historically worked with honey bees. Veterinarians don’t know how to diagnose bee diseases, and beekeepers don’t know to find a vet who can help them treat their hive. Reported cases of EFB doubled in MA between 2016 and 2018. 

 

And here is the opportunity: There are >4,000 beekeepers in the state of Massachusetts. If veterinarians are trained in honey bee health, they could offer science-based animal health expertise to beekeepers, many of whom live far from exisiting resources. The idea of vets treating honey bees is not new: in other countries, veterinarians are frequently trained to work with bees and beekeepers. 

 

Enter the MA Bee-Vet Project

With funding from MDAR, UMass Extension is working with Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine, the MDAR apiary program and Mass Bee to connect veterinarians to beekeepers, and beekeepers to veterinary care. The immediate goal of this project is to help veterinarians with prior beekeeping experience make the leap to inspecting hives. Specifically, we aim to:

  • Develop protocols for veterinarians who inspect honey bee colonies, including methods for reporting disease, pricing services, and establishing a vet-client relationship
  • Assemble a honey bee inspection kit for veterinarians, including reporting forms, resources and protocols
  • Create honey bee training materials geared towards veterinarians
  • Connect beekeeper-veterinarians in a professional network, so they can share questions and resources.

 

Our work compliments national efforts to connect veterinarians and beekeepers, including the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium: https://www.hbvc.org/ 

 

This work is funded by USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program 2019 AM190100XXXXG044 through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR)