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Honeybees are getting their own vaccine, the Guardian reported.

Recently, the US Department of Agriculture approved the world’s first inoculation for honeybees aimed at protecting the insects from the American foulbrood disease, which has been severely decimating their colonies.

The disease is caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae that affects bee hives. Because there is no cure for the disease, once a colony has been infected, beekeepers have to burn it and administer antibiotics to prevent further spread.

Developed by the US-based biotech firm Dalan Animal Health, the new vaccine functions by incorporating some of the bacteria into the royal jelly fed by worker bees to the queen. The special jelly is then eaten by the queen and the vaccine moves in part to the ovaries.

As the developing bee larvae hatch, they develop immunity to foulbrood, and Dalan’s research suggests this will reduce mortality rates from the disease.

First originating in the US, the foulbrood disease has spread worldwide and threatens myriad honeybee colonies around the globe. Dalan chief executive Annette Kleiser hopes the novel inoculation could help find vaccines for other bee-related diseases.

“Our vaccine is a breakthrough in protecting honeybees,” she said. “We are ready to change how we care for insects, impacting food production on a global scale.”

These breakthroughs are particularly important as scientists raise the alarm about declining insect populations around the world due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and the climate crisis.

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