By: Dr. Tracy Farone
It is mid-May here in the foothills of Pennsylvania. The locust trees are in full bloom. It looks like it will be a good year for them. “Good for the bees,” says the beekeeper voice in my head. The white-tailed deer have changed color into that beautiful reddish brown that pops out within the fresh, green backdrop of the woods. As my “barn” cat (but not really a barn cat), Sylvester, snoozes, stretched out at my feet, I just watched a doe trot away from a salt block 20 yards from my deck. I am a couple of days out from the end of the semester, time to take a breath…The last thing I want to think about is meetings, committees and the possible political acrobatics that go along with them.
I must admit I usually really hate meetings… “analysis paralysis,” pre-determined “communication,” hours of my life I will never get back, things “old” people do, and such. I have always thought it ironically funny that “committee” is the term for a gathering of vultures. But I am also appreciating the importance of voicing and hearing different perspectives on issues and how it’s extremely important in today’s world. And those that step up and serve on organizational committees are giving up their valuable time to contribute to important and ever on-going work.
As promised, I would like to give you an update and summary on a few exciting collaborations that have recently taken place and hopefully bring about positive relationships and outcomes between the beekeeping industry and veterinarians. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Animal Agriculture Liaison Committee (AALC) Meeting was held at AVMA Headquarters in Schaumburg, IL May 3-4, 2023. I had the opportunity to be a “fly on the wall” at times as an alternate delegate via ZOOM for some of the meeting. The Honey Bee Health Coalition’s (HBHC) Annual Meeting in Sacramento, CA was held at the same time. Both meetings hosted veterinarians representing honey bee medicine for the FIRST time. All representatives were veterinarians also serving on the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium (HBVC) board.
The American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Animal Agriculture Liaison Committee (AALC) Meeting Summary:
I have been an alternate delegate representing honey bees on this committee for four to five months now. I am still trying to figure out the ropes, doing mostly listening (a benefit to being the alternate). I can say the committee is continually active with legislative consulting and policy considerations coming to my email box every other day. I can also say that the committee is absolutely enthralled to learn more about honey bees. As an alternate, I did not attend the meeting in person, but Dr. Terri Kane was there, near Chicago, representing. I jumped into the meeting via ZOOM when I could. Some other perspectives include those that represent veterinarians and producers in the areas of veterinary pharmacology, bovine, fish, aquatics, swine, small ruminants, sheep, public health, cattle, chickens, turkeys and the reproduction of animals, as well as government entities like the FDA and USDA.
Discussions include topics like, the Farm Bill; various drug regulation bills; protective measures for maintaining a safe food supply; humane guidelines in animal handling; policies for identifying, preventing, and controlling several current disease threats; and reports on current issues affecting each industry represented and any on-going actions in place. Our honey bee report included information on the progress made within the HBVC and multiple Colleges of Veterinary Medicine to increase honey bee related education of veterinarians and veterinary students to better serve the industry through grant projects, additional curriculum and certification programs for practicing veterinarians. I wish I could get into more detail, but I am bound by a non-disclosure agreement and a secret handshake (just kidding about the handshake). Maybe I will work on the handshake when I attend a meeting in the flesh.
The Honey Bee Health Coalition’s (HBHC) Annual Meeting Summary:
The stated purpose of the HBHC annual meeting is to “advance dialogue and action across workstreams in the priority areas of forage and nutrition, hive management and crop pest control.” Focuses included almond production, bee protection, The Bee Integrated Demonstration Project and building relationships within members. Drs. Kristol Stenstrom and Britteny Kyle represented veterinarians and the HBVC, a new member of the HBHC, again for the first time. Various reports were shared on the status of honey bees, pollinators and the industry from both the agricultural and conservational perspectives. Best practices and projects involving disease management, habitat management and pesticide use were working topics of discussion.
Next on the List: Euthanasia and Depopulation Procedures in Honey Bees.
The AVMA is extremely interested in learning more about recommendations and guidelines for euthanizing honey bee colonies in various situations, in the safest and most humane manner. Various situations include smaller verses larger operations, stationary hives, migratory hives, emergency de-population procedures, euthanasia for public safety reasons and euthanasia for disease mitigation reasons. AVMA recommendations and guidelines exist for nearly every type of animal that veterinarians work with, except honey bees. I have been asked to be part of a special sub-committee to consider, write up and present recommendations and guidelines to the AVMA. As we begin this work, I am open to reader’s suggestions on the topic. Oh boy… another committee, here we go!