Impact of Veterinary Feed Directive on Honey Bees and Beekeeping

The Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), as administered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), took  effect on January 1, 2017. The purpose of this directive is to help slow antibiotic resistance from developing in bacteria. One of the ways FDA hopes to accomplish this is by removing all growth promotion uses from antibiotics fed to food-producing animals. Now, antibiotics will only be used for prevention, control, or treatment of a disease. 

Anyone that feeds antibiotics to an animal needs to have a prescription from a veterinarian to obtain the antibiotics. Honey bees are considered food producing animals by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine. If you do not need  antibiotics, you do not need to have a veterinarian. If you choose to give antibiotics to your bees, you will need to have a veterinarian. The antibiotics that beekeepers currently use without a prescription are oxytetracycline (Terramycin®) for  control of American and European Foulbrood, and tylosin (Tylan®) for the control of American foulbrood. These products fall under the new VFD rule. At this point, fumagilin does not fall under the VFD rule.

A beekeeper should contact a veterinarian and develop a legally defined relationship called the Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR). The veterinarian needs to conduct an exam to ensure they are familiar with the keeping of the bees and that there is a need for antibiotics.  The veterinarian can then write a prescription or VFD order.  If the veterinarian writes a prescription, depending on the state, the beekeeper accesses the antibiotics directly from the veterinarian, a clinic, or a pharmacy. If the veterinarian writes a VFD order, the beekeeper accesses the antibiotics from a feed mill that mixes the medication for direct application. Regardless of how the beekeeper accesses the medication, the beekeeper agrees to follow the directions of the veterinarian when they apply the treatment. The veterinarian agrees to be responsible for the medical management of the bees and to be available for follow up if needed, for instance if the treatment does not work.

Contact your local veterinarian to determine whether he or she is a “bee vet”.  If they are not, they may be able to refer you to another veterinarian that is trained in the care of bees.  Additional information regarding the VFD impact on  honey bees, as well as a listing of bee veterinarians around the country, can be found at beevets.com                                

Source: Travis Harper, MU Extension Agronomy Specialist