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More training in bee medicine is coming to Michigan veterinarians

Courtesy of Meghan Milbrath

The bulk of food crop pollination in the United States is performed by one species of honeybee and few Michigan veterinarians have knowledge or certifications for bee medicine. But one scientist is trying to change that.

Since 2017, federal law mandates commercial beekeepers to have a veterinarian sign off on prescribing antibiotic medications when a colony suffers a bacterial infection.

"The bacterial diseases are actually quite widespread in Michigan and are pretty terrible. So it is a huge problem that does immediately need help. And lots of beekeepers are in this place. So it's not just the theoretical," said Meghan Milbrath, an entomologist at Michigan State University. She recently received a quarter of a million dollars from the USDA to help increase access to bee medicines and training.

But since so many veterinarians lack knowledge to help bees, many Michigan commercial beekeepers seek out of state help and are frustrated by the lack of support.

"We have a lot of undertreated and under diagnosed bacterial diseases that are really harming the bees. So the first thing is to figure out what veterinarians need so that they feel comfortable, that their license is protected, and they're providing good care," said Milbrath.

Milbrath said the grant will also allow her to expand her educational outreach and train more students at veterinarian school.

Rick Brewer has been news director at WCMU since February 2024.