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Honey bees play a critical role in agricultural production and pollinate dozens of food producing crops in the United States. In the US, honey bees account for $15 billion in added crop value, and in California, honey production is ranked 5th in the nation with a value of $22.9 million. Honey bees are crucial in pollination for domestic agriculture, food security, and the nutritional benefits they provide to society. Safeguarding their health is of the utmost importance. The Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS) at UC Davis, has teamed up Elina Niño and Bernardo Niño at the UC Davis E.L. Niño Bee Laboratory, Jonathan Dear at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and Ramesh Sagili at the Oregon State University Honey Bee Laboratory to create a new course designed to educate veterinarians in California and Oregon in treating diseases of honey bees through an award from the USDA Specialty Crop Multi-State Program. Honey bees serve a dual role in the production of specialty crops in California and Oregon. Honey bees are vital in the pollination of specialty crops like apples, melons, cranberries, pumpkins, squash, broccoli, and almonds produce honey and honey itself is classified as a specialty crop. Annual honey bee colony losses are unacceptably high due to a variety of environmental and biological causes including bacterial diseases. Historically, beekeepers have self-prescribed antibiotics to control these diseases. However, the Food & Drug Administration and the State of California have taken steps to address antibiotic resistance and antimicrobial use in the feed or water of food-producing animals. The implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rule aims to ensure the judicious use of antimicrobials, and to minimize the impact of their use in colonies. Beekeepers now need to establish a veterinarian-client-patient relationship in order to obtain the antibiotics they need to manage foulbrood and other microbial diseases. Veterinarians are in need training for their new role in supporting beekeepers and maintaining the health of bee colonies. This program trains veterinarians, apiculture educators, and beekeepers through a comprehensive online bee biology course and a hands-on beekeeping program. Topics covered in this course include: prudent use of antibiotics, the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), bee biology, and beekeeping techniques and tools. By bringing veterinarians together with apiculturists through education, we can maintain strong, healthy colonies for specialty crop pollination and safe honey production for consumers.

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Funding for the development of the “Honey Bees and Beekeeping for Veterinarians” course was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Multi-State Program through an agreement between the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and The Regents of the University of California, Davis (agreement number 17-0727-001-SF). All content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA or CDFA.