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This year, veterinarians nationwide have begun seeing a new species. They’re small, busy, and love their queen. They’re honey bees. Under a new FDA ...
March 13, 2017

This year, veterinarians nationwide have begun seeing a new species. They’re small, busy, and love their queen. They’re honey bees.

Under a new FDA regulation, beekeepers must now get a prescription for medicine for their honey bees. In the past, beekeepers have used the services of the state apiary inspectors and the USDA bee disease lab for diagnosis, and purchased medicine over-the-counter. The new regulation is set up to curb over-use of antibiotics and antimicrobials.

With an estimated 115,000-125,000 bee-keepers nationwide[1], there are a lot of clients looking for a veterinarian who has been trained in bee medicine. While many veterinary programs touch on bee medicine, few programs offer the in-depth training required for veterinarians to fully treat bee colonies.  Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine is busy filling that gap.

Starting in January 2017, Cummings School offered its first Honey Bee Medicine Selective.   The course instructor, Dr. Emi Knafo, is a zoological medicine specialist who is herself a bee-keeping hobbyist. Her expertise in honey bee medicine come from her training as a board-certified ACZM veterinarian, as well as her own experience keeping bees since high school.

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Students and faculty in the Honey Bee Medicine Selective pose for a photo with guest speaker, Dr. Noah Wilson Rich.

The Honey Bee Medicine Selective is believed to be the first of its kind offered in a US veterinary school.  The selective covers everything from basic honey bee biology and apiculture, to life cycle, pathophysiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and other threats to honeybees.  The selective includes two guest speakers, two field trips, and hands-on training in hive-handling, a must for any veterinarian planning to treat honey bees.

Dr. Knafo has big plans for the selective. As the program develops, she intends to offer an Introductory Honey Bee Medicine Selective for first and second year students, with an Advanced Honey Bee Medicine Selective offered to third and fourth year students. Additionally, she’s received funding from a Tufts Innovates Grant to place high tech hives on campus. Five of the hives will have solar power, wireless data loggers and live video feed of the bees inside the hive. This will allow for greater hands-on experience, honey bee research, and some delicious local honey.

Current veterinarians have also shown interest in learning about honey bee medicine. Dr. Knafo recently headlined a popular honey bee medicine Continuing Education event that offered an intensive, day-long workshop for current veterinarians. Honey bee medicine is a hot topic in the veterinary world, and Dr. Knafo is creating a buzz with her new honey bee medicine initiatives.


[1] 12012 Industry Survey, Bee Culture Magazine 




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