First ever Vaccine against American Foulbrood

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently approved the world’s first ever vaccine against American Foulbrood (AFB) for honeybees. This offers beekeepers an effective solution to protect their colonies from American Foulbrood disease. 

What is American Foulbrood Disease?


American Foulbrood (AFB) is a highly contagious and dangerous bacterial disease affecting bee colonies. It is caused by the spore-forming bacteria Paenibacillus larvae. The disease can spread quickly among healthy bees and cause great damage to the entire hive population. Symptoms of infection are sunken or discolored cappings in brood cells, a dark and sticky consistency to the larvae, and an offensive smell.


Left untreated, American Foulbrood disease can cause massive losses in bee colonies due to weakened or dead bees. Fortunately, it is possible to combat AFB with antibiotics like oxytetracycline or tylosin. However, there are drawbacks associated with their use. It is costly and can harm the environment.

Traditional Methods of fighting American Foulbrood

Antibiotics can be effective in controlling American Foulbrood disease. However, there are other methods of prevention that are recommended for beekeepers. These include regular hive inspections to check for signs of infection and discarding infected combs or equipment immediately upon detection. Beekeepers should also strive to keep the strength of their bees up with good nutrition and adequate ventilation in the winter months.

The success rate for controlling American Foulbrood disease is variable. This is because it depends on many factors, such as the timing of treatment and the strength of the colony. Furthermore, treatments can be dangerous to both beekeepers and the environment if not used properly. It is important to read instructions carefully before attempting any kind of treatment.

How does the Vaccine Work?

The vaccine is developed by Dalan Animal Health, a US biotechnology firm. This innovative vaccine is designed to directly target queen bees and instill immunity within their progeny. It is achieved by introducing certain bacteria into the royal jelly diet consumed by queens. When fed to the larvae prior to hatching, it can provide immunity against Foulbrood infections. This could potentially be used as an aid in producing “fully vaccinated queens”.  The simple process involves feeding the queen bee larvae with pre-vaccinated candy syrup during their transition period. 

Spread and Dangers of American Foulbrood

American Foulbrood spreads by spores and is transmitted through contact. Worker bees infect themselves when collecting pollen and then spread the disease to the rest of the colony, infecting pollen, wax and other materials.

Once a hive is infected, the disease can quickly spread to healthy hives. The bacterial spores are able to survive for a long time in the environment, so any contact with food or equipment from an infected hive could lead to re-infection.

Previously American Foulbrood has only affected regions within USA. However, it has spread around the globe and has become an international pandemic for honeybee populations. Not only do managed beehives suffer due to this disease but wild bee species all over the world are at risk too. This is because of numerous factors including climate change, pesticide use, and destruction of habitat. All these ultimately lead towards a global crisis that threatens ecosystems and human food security at large. As such, successful implementation of this vaccine could provide much needed relief from these mounting problems. Furthermore, it also allows us to better appreciate and conserve our precious insect population. 


Beekeepers have always been at the forefront of trying to protect their colonies from diseases like American Foulbrood. Now, with the USDA’s approval of this novel vaccine, there is a glimmer of hope for them in their tireless efforts. While many traditional methods exist for controlling infections it can be labour-intensive and requires extensive knowledge about diseases caused by pests or pathogens. With this new technology however, beekeepers could potentially save time and money while ensuring that their bees remain healthy and productive. Furthermore, research has shown that vaccination not only offers protection against specific diseases but also strengthens colonies overall immune system thus making them better equipped against any potential pathogens they may come across in future

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