Bees Need Veterinarians Too!

Did you know that honey bees are a food-producing animal and as such, require veterinary care? In Canada alone, 95 million pounds of honey are produced by 720,000 colonies of bees. Starting in December 2018, Health Canada has directed that veterinary oversight is needed for any Medically Important Antimicrobials (MIA’s), meaning that a prescription is required to obtain these. And yes – bees need antibiotics too!

Like all animals, bees are affected by a number of diseases, one of the most significant of these diseases is a bacterial disease called American Foulbrood. In areas where the disease is highly prevalent, antibiotics are used as a preventative. Veterinary care is very important to help prevent resistance to antibiotics, as well as ensure that commercial honey is not contaminated with antibiotics.

Some Fun Facts About Honey Bees

  • The queen only mates once in life (with as many drones as possible!) and can then store sperm within a special sperm-storing organ for 3 to 4 years.
  • Drones are male bees whose sole purpose is to mate; if they succeed at mating they die, if they don’t mate, then they live for a few months and are kicked out of the hive before winter and then die.
  • During peak season, a queen can lay 1500 eggs a day (close to her weight).
  • In winter, bees don’t defecate in the hive, instead, on warm sunny days, bees will take a short “cleansing flight” to void their rectums.
  • Worker bees are sterile females; they spend the first half of their life doing housekeeping (cleaning, nursing, feeding/tending the queen, processing pollen etc.) and the second half doing field work (collecting pollen, water etc.). Girls rock!

If you have a hive and need any assistance, please contact Dr. Rebeccah Stewart at the Kamloops Veterinary Clinic, she is more than happy to be your bee doctor!

Written by Dr. Rebeccah Stewart, DVM