LAUREL — The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the first honey bee vaccine to target American foulbrood, an aggressive bacterial disease that quickly jumps from hive to hive and has no cure.
It's a step toward a stronger apiary industry, which plays a big role in Montana, one of the country's largest honey producers.
The bees at the Drange Apiary in Laurel are currently "taking a break" owner Jodie Drange said. But later this week they will be heading to California to start pollinating almond orchards. Just one of the many ways honey bees play an essential part in the ecosystem.
“Just because they make honey isn’t only what they do, they pollinate. They pollinate the crops, so the farmers need us to come out and bring our bees," Drange said.
Drange also said they haven't had to deal with a lot of American foulbrood in their hives, which affects larvea, but they are still looking forward to what this vaccine means. Drange doesn't plan on administering the vaccine, which she said will be fed to worker bees, then will be eaten by the queen bee through royal jelly, which is secreted from the heads of worker bees.
The apiary is not currently using the vaccine and does not know if they will. Drange said that while the FDA has approved the vaccine, it does not mean that it is being used, yet.
According to the biotech company behind the vaccine, Dalan Animal Health, it will be available for purchase later this year.
“If we’ve got this maybe it's going to cure European foulbrood, maybe we’ll find another cure for the mites or another disease that we are dealing with, with our bees," Drange said.
In 2015, Montana ranked second in honey production nationwide, according to the USDA.