DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. — Crowds buzzed around the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association stand at the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Wednesday.
It’s a popular stop, giving guests a way to learn more about one of our world’s most important pollinators.
“If we didn’t have bees we wouldn’t get all the food we have now," said Thomas Lehman, a member of the Capital Area Beekeepers Association.
From apples to corn, honeybees pollinate 75% of the fruits and vegetables we eat.
But experts say for over 100 years, a deadly bacterial disease has been contributing to a global population decline.
“It’s a spore that can last 80 years, in the ground for almost forever," explained Charlie Vorisek of the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association. "Occasionally when bees are stressed, they’ll pick up American Foulbrood and it’s actually contagious”
Now there's a potential breakthrough.
The USDA has approved its first-ever insect vaccine to help protect the bugs.
It contains dead Paenibacillus larvae, the bacteria that causes American Foulbrood.
“We’ll see," said Vorisek. "It sounds like it has some hope from some reliable sources, we’ll wait and see.”
Don’t expect to see any syringes though. The vaccine is given in the form of food, first to worker bees who then feed it to the queen.
The vaccine is transferred into her ovaries, then to developing eggs, giving larvae immunity as they hatch.
“The main thing is monitoring the hive, making sure they’re active and happy with the queen and she’s making babies," said Lehman.
The Beekeepers Association says there’s still a lot to learn, but it's hopeful the vaccine could be a game-changer.
“We’re hesitant to make a conclusion because we see a lot of silver bullets over the years for different issues so it’s kind of a wait-and-see," said Vorisek.
The vaccine is expected to be distributed on a limited basis to commercial beekeepers and be available to purchase in the U.S. this year.
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