Veterinary care of honey bees

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Veterinary care of honey bees

Published 30 November 2021 | Updated 23 January 2024

Honey bees are important pollinators as well as food producing animals and, along with concerns about residues and antimicrobial resistance, the veterinary treatment of bees is receiving increased interest.

This Spotlight brings together resources to support veterinary professionals who are asked for advice on, or provide veterinary care to, honey bees. The list includes a series of review articles published in the November 2021 issue of Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice which focuses on honey bees.

The feature contains introductory articles relating to beekeeping as well as more detailed articles relating to various aspects of the prevention and treatment of diseases of honey bees. While many of the articles have a North American focus, they contain useful information for anyone interested in keeping or treating honey bees. However, these articles should be interpreted alongside information on disease risks and medicines regulations that apply locally.

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  • Danieli, P.P. et al. (2024) Precision beekeeping systems: State of the art, pros and cons, and their application as tools for advancing the beekeeping sector. Animals, 14 (1), no. 70.
  • Pernal, S.F. (2021) Introduction to apiculture (Apis mellifera). Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 381-386.
    This article provides an overview of the history of beekeeping and the role of veterinarians in supporting beekeepers by providing expert advice on disease prevention and control.
  • Pernal, S.F. (2021) The social life of honey bees. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 387-400.
    This article provides an overview of the social life of bees and their colonies, along with information on their communication through dance language and pheromones.
  • Skyrm, K. et al (2021) Working with state and provincial apiary programs to manage honey bee (Apis mellifera) health. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 467-478.
    Although this article concentrates on State regulation in the US it contains useful information relating to disease control.
  • Faux, C.M. and Kane, T.R. (2021) Honey bees: disaster preparedness and response. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 559-567.
    This article looks at some of the potential threats, including pests and climate change that may impact on honey bee survival and how to mitigate these risks.

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Honey bee health

Updated 21 March 2022

  • Kozii, I.V. et al (2021) Reproductive fitness of honey bee queens exposed to thiamethoxam during development. Veterinary Pathology, 58 (6) pp. 1107-1118
  • Wyns, D. (2021) Honeybee (Apis mellifera) health considerations in commercial beekeeping. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 491-503.
    This article discusses the additional stressors that may be faced by commercially managed bee colonies, with particular reference to those used in almond pollination in California.
  • Tsuruda, J.M., Chakrabarti, P. and Sagili, R.R. (2021) Honey bee nutrition. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 505-519.
    This article reviews the nutritional needs and foraging behaviour of bees and includes video footage of a pollen forager performing waggle dance.
  • Morfin, N., Anguiano-Baez, R. and Guzman-Novoa, E. (2021) Honey bee (Apis mellifera) immunity. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 521-533.
    This article discusses both individual immunity, which operates through cellular and humoral mechanisms and social defence mechanisms such as hygienic and grooming behaviours, which work together to defend the bees against infectious agents and parasites.
  • Kyle, B., Lee, K. and Pernal, S.F. (2021) Epidemiology and biosecurity for veterinarians working with honey bees (Apis mellifera). Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 479-490.
    This article discusses the application of the principles of epidemiology and biosecurity as they can be applied to honey bees, based on disease dynamics applied at the level of the individual, colony, apiary, and broader honey bee populations.
  • Ricigliano, V.A., Williams, S.T. and Oliver, R. (2022) Effects of different artificial diets on commercial honey bee colony performance, health biomarkers, and gut microbiota. BMC Veterinary Research, 18, no. 52.

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Diseases of bees

Updated 29 September 2023

  • Nekoei, S. et al. (2023) A systematic review of honey bee (Apis mellifera, Linnaeus, 1758) infections and available treatment options. Veterinary Medicine and Science, 9 (4), pp. 1848-1860.
  • Pasho, D.J., Applegate, J.R. and Hopkins, D.I. (2021) Diseases and pests of honey bees (Apis Mellifera). Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 401-412.
    This article provides an overview of bacterial, parasitic, fungal and viral diseases and explains the differences between American and European foulbrood and the importance of controlling the Varroa mite to enable colonies to survive.
  • Benoit-Biancamanom M-O (2023) Special section on honey bee health and disease. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 35 (5), pp. 595-596.
  • Applegate, J.R. (2021) Common noninfectious conditions of the honey bees (Apis mellifera) colony. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 413-425.
    This article describes some of the serious (non-infectious) conditions that can affect bee colonies, including starvation, laying worker colonies, and the microenvironment of the hive, along with the management practices that may be helpful in preventing these conditions.
  • Ramsey, S.D. (2021) Foreign pests as potential threats to North American apiculture: Tropilaelaps mercedesae, Euvarroa spp, Vespa mandarinia, and Vespa velutinaVeterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 545-558.
    This article reviews some of the potentially invasive pests that could have a significant impact on honey bee health.
  • Garcia-Figueroa, C. et al. (2023) Effects of genetic origin of honeybees and climate on prevalence and infestation levels of varroa. Animals, 13 (20), 3277.
  • Roy, C. and Franco, S. (2021) Investigation of an atypical case of European foulbrood in France. Veterinary Record Case Reports, 9 (1), p.e45.
  • Bava, R. et al. (2022) Entomopathogenic fungi for pests and predators control in beekeeping. Veterinary Science9 (2), no. 95.

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Veterinary treatment of honey bees

  • Benito-Murcia, M. et al. (2022) Study of pyrethroid resistance mutations in populations of Varroa destructor across Spain. Research in Veterinary Science, 152, pp. 34-37.
  • Roy, C. and Vidal-Naquet, N. (2022) Euthanasia of honey-bee colonies: Proposal of a standard method. Canadian Veterinary Journal, 63 (5), pp. 541-544. PMID: 35502254
  • Formato, G. et al (2010) Veterinary care of honey bees in the UK. In Practice, 32 (9), pp. 418-425.
    This article provides a good introduction to the veterinary care of honey bees, but should be supplemented with more up to date resources.
  • Hopkins, D.I. and Keller, J.J. (2021) Honey bee diagnostics. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 427-450.
    This article discusses diagnostic techniques from visual inspection of the hive to field and laboratory diagnostic tests for the most common diseases.
  • Farone, T.S. (2021) Registered medicinal products for use in honey bees in the United States and Canada. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 451-465.
    This article provides details of the medications available to treat bees. While the details of the legislation around, and licencing of medicinal products, relates only to the US and Canada this article contains a great deal of useful information which should be interpreted in the light of local regulations.
  • Richards, E.D. et al (2021) Honey bee medicine for veterinarians and guidance for avoiding violative chemical residues in honey. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 259 (8), pp. 860-873.
    This paper from the Food  Animal  Residue  Avoidance  and  Depletion  Program  (FARAD), looks more specifically at avoiding chemical residues in honey. Although this is a US report and based on FDA approved drugs it provides a useful overview of the treatment of honey bees and issues around residues.

  • Tiwari, T. and Zayed, A. (2021) Practical applications of genomics in managing honey bee health.Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 535-543.
    This article reviews the potential for genetic biomarkers and gene wide association studies to improve bee health.
  • Kyle, B. and Applegate, J.R. (2021) Honey bees and humane euthanasia. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice, 37 (3), pp. 569-575.
    This article looks at appropriate euthanasia of bees where colony depopulation or colony destruction is required. It concludes that although current, commonly used, methodologies may not meet the criteria of humane euthanasia, veterinarians can still apply the professional standard to other key aspects of the act of euthanasia.

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