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In recent years, veterinarians have become more involved in the health and welfare of honeybees as the result of changes in how antibiotics are regulated. In this episode, Dr. Brittany Kyle, veterinarian and honeybee expert, discusses the fascinating world of beekeeping, some of the common misconceptions around bees, and the lessons she has learned caring for her own bee colony. The stories shared include great resources, whether you have an established apiary or you just want to know what the buzz is all about.

Dr. Britteny Kyle, Honeybee Veterinarian

[00:01:05] Dr. Lancellotti: Welcome, everyone, to today’s episode of Your Vet Wants You To Know. I have a very sweet guest joining us today- Dr. Brittney Kyle. She’s going to be talking to us about veterinary care for a species we don’t commonly learn about in veterinary school, and one we haven’t talked about on the show before- honeybees. Welcome to the show, Dr. Kyle.

[00:01:23] Dr. Kyle: Thank you so much for having me! I’m always excited to talk about bees as much as possible. This is great!

[00:01:29] Dr. Lancellotti: I’m really interested because we go through veterinary school and bees really aren’t something that are on our radar in terms of what we have to learn, in order to pass the boards and go out into practice. So, how did you get into honeybee medicine?

[00:01:44] Dr. Kyle: It started with the government making some changes about access to antibiotics because of the concern of antibiotic resistance (which I’m sure a lot of our listeners have heard about), particularly antibiotics that are being used in human medicine. The FDA made some changes that said that all antibiotics that are used in human medicine that are important to us, needed to have veterinary oversight. What that means is that some of the antibiotics that can be used in beekeeping (for honeybee bacterial diseases) were no longer available over the counter. So, beekeepers had to go out and find a veterinarian that was knowledgeable about bees, willing to work with them, and able to make decisions about disease management in their colonies. It created this new field. You’re right. When I was in vet school, the only thing I heard about bees was that honey was great for treating wounds. And bees were never on my radar, as a patient, for sure. So, after these changes went into place, some of the fabulous people already working in honeybee health started to try to reach out to veterinarians, to get education out there. There isn’t formal training- or there hadn’t been- so I was very fortunate to take a course through the Veterinary Information Network on honeybee medicine. I took it just out of interest. I was looking to get back into clinical practice, but I saw this course and I thought, “Oh, that sounds really interesting. What could it possibly be about?” And from the very first lecture, I was hooked. Since then, the bees have completely taken over my life. I have become a beekeeper. I spent a couple of years studying bees, on my own. I was looking at opening up a specific practice just for honeybees- a honeybee hospital, if you will- but for a number of reasons, I switched course, deciding to go back and get my master’s in epidemiology, with my focus being one of the bacterial diseases of honeybees. I finished my master’s in 2021, and then went on to start my PhD, continuing the same research topic.

[00:03:59] Dr. Lancellotti: You just took a really important exam. Didn’t you?

[00:04:04] Dr. Kyle: I just did my qualifying exam. I’m happy to say I passed. So, I’m progressing through my PhD program. There’s light at the end of the very long school tunnel.

[00:04:15] Dr. Lancellotti: Congratulations! That’s exciting!

[00:04:17] Dr. Kyle: Thank you!

Bees flying in and out of hive

Do honeybees need veterinarians?

[00:04:19] Dr. Lancellotti: Working in Ontario, is there a lot of opportunity for you to go and be around beekeepers? Is there a significant honey production going on in that area?

[00:04:32] Dr. Kyle: There are lots of beekeepers and a lot of colonies. In Ontario, we have about 3000 beekeepers and about 100,000 colonies- which isn’t small. It’s a lot larger in the continental US, with just under 3 million honeybee colonies. Beekeeping is very common. There are lots of beekeepers- all different types. Some do it just as a hobby, because they either enjoy bees or they want to have a little bit of honey on the side. And for a lot of other people, it’s truly a business. This is how they earn their income. And they’re often large enough that they have staff working for them. There’s a huge spectrum and it’s a developing field. Right now, we’re trying to get veterinarians educated, so that there are enough veterinarians to meet the need, when it arises. Currently, the main reason beekeepers are reaching out to veterinarians is to access antibiotics, when they are concerned that their colony has a bacterial disease, or are trying to prevent the colony from developing the clinical bacterial disease (or what they can see). We’re trying to make sure that there are enough veterinarians that are able to meet that need, but it’s been evolving over the last 6-7 years.

Beekeeping is hard work!

[00:05:51] Dr. Lancellotti: When you think about some of the colonies that you’ve worked with over your career, and how you’ve been learning about how to care for honeybees, is there one particular colony that sticks out in your mind?

[00:06:02] Dr. Kyle: Of course. My first colony. I thought, “Okay, I want to learn more about bees,” and I signed up for a really great intensive beekeeping course, which actually took place over 8 months, allowing me to see beekeeping throughout the seasons. It was terrific. I learned a lot. I also spent a lot of time studying on my own. I felt that I was prepared to become a beekeeper, so I got my first colony. And I can tell you that beekeeping is an incredibly humbling experience. First of all, it’s hard work. It’s physically demanding work. It’s not something that you can pick up and put down, based on your schedule. There’s a lot to learn. And boy, I made a lot of mistakes that first year. I am very grateful for having that opportunity because it made me understand some of the challenges that beekeepers are facing a lot better. It made me understand how important the colonies were to the beekeepers. And it made me understand that even with being highly trained as a veterinarian, and being trained in diseases, there is a whole lot more that goes into beekeeping than simply just treating disease.

[00:07:16] Dr. Lancellotti: Learning about it in a course is really important, but that hands-on experience taught you a whole lot more. Huh?

[00:07:22] Dr. Kyle: Absolutely! I keep my colonies in a Langstroth hive, which is a series of boxes stacked on top of one another. Within the boxes are the frames that the bees build their honeycomb on. The frames get filled up in the bottom boxes with the developing bees, and then also with honey and pollen, which is the food for the bee colony. The top boxes are just full of honey. And boy, those boxes get really heavy! In a large box that’s full of developing bees and honey, it’s not uncommon for it to weigh at least 50 pounds. I am a rather small-framed person and I was out in the bee yard, by myself. I took off the top boxes (which weren’t that bad), and then I had to take off one of those big heavy brood boxes, and it was like a superhuman strength just to get that box picked up and put down. We take the boxes apart and look through them because we’re looking to evaluate the health of the colony. We’re looking to see if there are any problems, so this is something that beekeepers routinely do. I placed that box down, went through the bottom box that I needed to see, and then I looked over and I thought, “Oh, goodness! Now I have to pick that 50+ pound box up off the ground, to basically stick it somewhere that is at shoulder height. And I thought, “I can do this!” It was as if I channeled my inner Wonder Woman, and I was able to pick it up and put it down. But as I set it down, because I was struggling so much, I didn’t see the bees in the way, and there was a bunch of crushed bees.

[00:08:58] Dr. Lancellotti: Oh no!

[00:08:58] Dr. Kyle: It always feels terrible to crush bees. It’s not what we’re out to do. I was so upset. I drove home, and as I was sitting, on my back porch, thinking about these poor bees (about a dozen were crushed) I thought, “Why didn’t I just take some of those frames out of the box?” I could have made it light and it would’ve been easy to move. So there is value in doing things for ourselves. There are things you learn that nobody thinks to teach you, that you don’t realize until after you’ve gone through it. So I think that was probably one of my most memorable and hard-earned lessons, out in the bee yard.

[00:09:43] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. It sounds like it’s a team sport, maybe.

[00:09:46] Dr. Kyle: Sometimes, I do wish there was a second set of hands. But beekeepers are a very inventive bunch and there is an amazing amount of things that they have come up with to make things easier. Anyone who’s looking to get into beekeeping, I would recommend talking to other beekeepers. Get mentors. See what they’re doing. And hopefully, you’ll avoid some of these pitfalls that the rest of us have learned the hard way.

Lifting a box of bees

What do normal honeybees look like?

[00:10:15] Dr. Lancellotti: Let’s talk about some of this knowledge that you’ve gained over the years, giving people a little bit of starting information. Certainly, this is not an all-encompassing resource for them, but a great jumping-off point for them to dive into beekeeping. So for people who might be interested in setting up their own honeybee colony, or improving the health of one that they already have, what sort of general care is required to keep these bees healthy? What should the honeybee owners expect?

[00:10:44] Dr. Kyle: That’s a great question. It’s a big one, too. Regular inspections are really important- looking at the colony and taking it apart. And in the population peak, there’s going to be 30,000-50,000 bees, so we’re not really looking at every single individual bee. But when we take the frames out and look, we can get a lot of information on how that colony is doing. There are a couple of parts to that. If you’re just starting out, taking a beginner beekeeping course is essential. I highly recommend it. There are a lot of things that can be quite overwhelming during the first few times that you look at a colony, on your own. Also, learn about beekeeping in your specific area. There are some really great online beekeeping courses, but if it’s from an area that has a completely different environment, beekeeping is going to be very different. Try to stay as local as possible because that’s where you’ll get the information that you really need. It’s also really important just to spend time looking at colonies. Hopefully, if you do a beekeeping course, you get a hands-on component, where you’ll get to go out with somebody experienced. But as you know, Brittany, we spend a lot of time in our foundational year of veterinary school just learning what normal looks like- and that is true for honeybee colonies. Learning what a normal colony looks like, in your area, at the different times of the year, is so important because when you know what ‘normal’ is, you also know when there’s something abnormal. You don’t necessarily know what the ‘abnormal’ is. Sometimes, that’s a bit of a fact-finding mission. But if you know something is wrong, then you can react to it. Take the time to learn what ‘normal’ is, get experience handling bees safely, and keep yourself safe, as well [because they are stinging insects] is really important.

A woman examines a beehive

What is the varroa mite? Do my honeybees have varroa mites?

[00:12:43] Dr. Kyle: The biggest piece of advice I can give is to never underestimate the varroa mite, which is a parasite that feeds off of honeybees (adults as well as developing) and they are considered to be in every single colony. It’s spread around the United States and Canada, and even when we can’t find them in a colony, we know that either the colony has them and we missed them, or the colony will soon have them. So, don’t underestimate them. They cause a lot of damage. They transmit viruses, as well as causing damage through feeding. They need to be managed. We manage them by monitoring for them, not only inspecting the colony, but by actually doing tests. There are two different types of tests that I recommend; an alcohol wash or a sugar roll. There are some really good online resources to explain how to do those. We need to be checking regularly. I do it once a month, in most of the beekeeping season, and I actually do it every other week, once we start to get into our dormant phase. It’s really key to monitor them and then to treat when we see the number of mites approaching what we call a threshold. There are predetermined thresholds of how many mites can be per 100 bees, and once we get to that threshold, it’s really important to treat. And I can’t emphasize that enough. If we were all monitoring for varroa, we would improve the health of our colonies quite a lot.

[00:14:15] Dr. Lancellotti: It sounds like that is one of the most important things to understand- what to watch for and how to test for this particular mite.

[00:14:21] Dr. Kyle: That’s right. It’s key. There are lots of things to do and look for. There are a lot of management issues. There is learning about honeybee nutrition and how to supplement them, at the times of year when there’s not enough nutrition for them in the environment. There is learning about how many beekeepers there are, in your area, and how diseases spread between colonies. The bees will go where they want to go, and they will intermingle with whom they want to intermingle. Learning about the risks and what you can do to reduce risks is really important, but varroa is always at the top of my list of things that I must stay on top of. It is always best, when you’re working with a honeybee colony, to be proactive instead of reactive. We want to be keeping varroa at a minimum and not letting it get out of control.

Get to know other beekeepers in your community!

[00:15:10] Dr. Lancellotti: I love that recommendation of having a network of beekeepers in the area. If you have that communication between other people, who are looking at their colonies, it’ll be easy for you to get an idea of what’s happening, in terms of the health of the overall bee population in the community.

[00:15:29] Dr. Kyle: This is something that beekeepers have done really well. I think in every state and province there’s a state or provincial beekeeping association. There are also national ones, but then there are more local ones as well. There are usually smaller groups of the local beekeepers, and I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend and listen in on some of the meetings. They usually hold meetings pretty regularly. The ones that are close to me are once a month. They can discuss what’s going on in their colonies, what concerns they’re having, and share ideas of how to manage. There are usually beekeepers that are brand new, but also beekeepers with decades of experience, to learn from within these local associations.

[00:16:14] Dr. Lancellotti: That’s cool! What a fun community to be a part of.

[00:16:17] Dr. Kyle: Absolutely.

What are other honeybee diseases?

[00:16:19] Dr. Lancellotti: We talked about the varroa mites, but I know that there are some other medical problems- one, in particular, that you’ve been studying and researching. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the other medical problems that you might see within these bee colonies.

[00:16:31] Dr. Kyle: Sure. Bees get sick with all different things, just like all other animals. They get parasites, one of which is the varroa mite. They get bacterial diseases, which is one of the things that I’m studying. There are two bacterial diseases that we know of, in honeybees- American foulbrood and European foulbrood. They both occur here, despite their name indicating otherwise. And they can absolutely be very detrimental or lethal to a colony, so it’s really important to know about the bacterial diseases and the steps you can take to reduce the risk of getting them. With the bacterial diseases, one of the treatment options (for European foulbrood, at least) is antibiotics. Knowing the veterinarians in your area who are willing to work with bees, ahead of time, can be really important. There are viral diseases, as well. A lot of the viruses are vectored by the varroa mite, so we can keep the amount of virus down in a colony by keeping control of the varroa population. But there are other viruses, as well, that can occur separate from varroa. Of course, we don’t have a lot of treatments available for viruses, so keeping strong, healthy colonies and reducing other stresses is often our best defense. There are also fungal diseases. There are a lot of pests and predators of honeybees, as well. One that I wanted to mention, in particular, is a pest called a wax moth. Wax moths are pretty cool insects, in their own right. They’re pretty boring looking moths, but the females enter a bee colony, at night, and lay their eggs in the colony. Then, the larva that hatch can cause a lot of destruction within the colony. Beekeepers will often know when they have wax moths. You can see the larva, the destruction, the cocoons and the silk threads that the larva spread throughout the colony. The reason I mention it is because if you see wax moths in a colony, it means that the colony was already sick (or already had a problem with something else). Wax moths should never be a problem in a strong colony. The bees can take care of it. The misconception that I’ve often heard is that wax moths killed the colony. So if you open up a colony and you see any signs, look for what else is going on.

[00:18:57] Dr. Lancellotti: Oh, so those are more like the nail in the coffin of a bee colony that’s had something pretty serious going on before that.

[00:19:04] Dr. Kyle: That’s right. Also, for medical problems, I include human management issues on my list. If we’re taking on being a beekeeper, we are the ones who are responsible for the health and welfare of that colony. It’s on us, to make sure that their nutritional needs are being met and that their diseases are being managed. I take a lot of responsibility in ensuring that if I am keeping colonies, I am keeping them in as best health as I can, and I think that a lot of beekeepers share that sentiment. But from time to time, I will see mismanagement. Sometimes, bees die of starvation, which shouldn’t happen if we can supplement them.

Are honeybees going extinct?

[00:19:50] Dr. Lancellotti: Maybe this leads to some of the misconceptions that people might have surrounding honeybees. What are some of the most common misconceptions that you hear, or the most common questions that you get asked?

[00:20:03] Dr. Kyle: I think that the most common misconception is that our honeybees are disappearing. I hear this all the time. It’s a message that’s been commonly portrayed in the media. Honeybees are facing a lot of problems and honeybee health is not good right now, but honeybees are actually an agricultural species. They’re not native here in North America. We breed, raise, and manage honeybees. It’s no different than chickens, cows, and pigs. All of our other agricultural (food) animals aren’t going to disappear on us, and honeybees won’t either. I bring this up because there are a lot of problems that pollinators are facing, in general. There are actually 20,000 different species of bees, and we only keep one of them here in North America- honeybees. Every other bee out there in North America is a wild bee. There are other pollinators that are really important, as well (butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, etc). Pollination is super important for us because of ecosystem biodiversity, the number of flowering plants out in our environment, and it’s also really important for food security. A lot of our crops are dependent on pollination, so we need our pollinators. They are facing a lot of problems from intensification of agriculture, urbanization, the changing and fragmenting of the landscape, and agrichemicals. One problem, in particular, for our wild pollinators, is that our honeybees that aren’t in good health. We know that pathogens or disease-causing organisms in honeybees can spread over into wild pollinator populations. We don’t necessarily know the significance of that spread. Right now, we only know that the spread can happen. A lot of people hear the messaging that honeybees are in trouble or disappearing. They’re really well-intentioned and they want to help, so they go out and they become beekeepers, but keeping honeybees that are not in good health will actually cause more harm than good. I don’t want to discourage anyone from being a beekeeper. I love beekeeping. I think it’s a wonderful hobby. I’ve gotten a lot of great things in my life because of honeybees. But I mention it because if you are serious about keeping bees, you need to learn about the diseases. You need to learn management. You need to be prepared, so that we’re keeping our bee colonies under optimal health, in order to not cause problems for our other pollinators. If our motivation is not to be beekeepers, but truly to help our pollinators, there are lots of other things that people can be doing- planting gardens, decreasing the amount of urban deserts that we have lawns), putting forage into the landscape- especially, native plants. There are lots of ways people can get involved and help out. There are a lot of great online resources. But I bring that up because it’s a very common misconception.

[00:23:29] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. It sounds like the honeybees that are healthy are definitely helpful, but if there’s disease within the colony, and maybe they’re not managed quite as well, there could be spillover of that disease into the wild populations, which becomes an impact (in terms of conservation, agriculture, and the other wildlife) that we want to protect.

[00:23:49] Dr. Kyle: That’s right. Absolutely.

How common are honeybee allergies?

[00:23:52] Dr. Lancellotti: I actually treat a fair number of patients, in my dermatology practice (since we are the allergists of the veterinary world), for bee sting allergies. Tell me a little bit about your experience with this.

[00:24:05] Dr. Kyle: Bee sting allergies are absolutely a real concern. It’s something that I am proactive about in my practice. I recommend that anyone who is working regularly with bees be prepared. One day, they could develop a severe allergic reaction to bee stings. I carry an EpiPen with me, even though I’ve never reacted to bee stings in an allergic fashion, so that if I’m alone, working in a bee yard, and I get stung and have a severe reaction, I have it on hand. It is something to take very seriously. I smile when I hear people say “bee sting allergies.” When I mention to people that I keep bees, almost inevitably I will hear, “Oh, I’m allergic to bees.” And there are true bee sting allergies, which can be severe, but there’s also a normal local reaction. We’re being injected with bee venom when we get stung, and it is normal for our body to respond. It is painful. There will be local swelling. It will be red. It often feels hot. It’s uncomfortable. I actually get a swelling that lasts for about a week. It gets quite itchy. It’s not nice, but it’s very localized. So although we are having a reaction to the sting, it’s not necessarily a true allergy, which is why there’s a bit of a misconception over the number of people with severe bee sting allergies.

[00:25:31] Dr. Lancellotti: And can I ask, how many times have you been stung, since you’ve been keeping bees? Or have you lost count?

[00:25:37] Dr. Kyle: Quite a lot! I try not to keep count. I have a lot of clover flowers planted in my lawn. Last summer, I can’t tell you how many hours I spent telling my children, “Do not run through the grass barefoot. We have bees. Always have your shoes on.” And low and behold, I was out without my shoes on and I got stung on the bottom of the foot- which was quite uncomfortable. It is part of the reality of working with bees, but there is a lot that you can do to protect yourself. Wearing a proper bee suit and a veil are really important. Also, learning how to use a smoker properly can calm the bees and help to direct them. That said, I have a colleague who is severely allergic to stings and she still works with bees. She’s just extremely cautious, so it’s possible to not be stung. There is information out there about bee stings that most people know- two major things. One is that the bee dies when she stings and the other is that you have to remove the stinger right away because the honeybee stinger is barbed. So when they sting you, the stinger gets stuck in your skin. As the bee moves away, it actually rips out of her body, and with it comes the venom gland. Oftentimes, it will eviscerate her or leave a large hole in her abdomen, so she cannot live. It’s not compatible with life, which is why they die. But the reason that the venom gland stays attached is so that it continues to pulsate venom into their victim, which is why you want to remove it right away. If you get stung, it’s really important to scrape it off in a parallel-to-the-skin fashion. You don’t want to grab it and pull because you can actually squeeze more venom inside. So it’s the venom gland that you want to remove as quickly as possible to reduce your dose. Then, icing the area can definitely help, because even after you’ve been stung many times, it still hurts.

[00:27:39] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. I remember. When I was a kid, our lawn in the backyard had lots of clover, and there were numerous summers where I would come in crying because I had been running without my shoes on, and was getting stung by the bees out there.

Honeybee on clover

Can honeybees survive if they sting you?

Dr. Lancellotti: My kids were also fascinated, last summer, about bees. We watched a video of a beekeeper, where the bee was stinging his arm, and then he allowed the bee to remove the stinger. If he just left it alone and didn’t swat the bee away, they could untwist themselves from his arms. I don’t know if you have any experience with letting the bees untwist themselves, but these bees flew away with their stinger in tact.

[00:28:19] Dr. Kyle: I have not tried that. I have never stayed calm enough. I do stay relatively calm because you don’t want to startle all of the other bees. You want to put down whatever equipment you’re holding. I usually have a quick movement, to try to get the bee off of me, so perhaps I have been doing it wrong. But that isn’t something that I’ve heard of before.

[00:28:38] Dr. Lancellotti: I feel like you would have to really train your brain not to automatically hit where it hurts- because it hurts! And this guy was just allowing himself to get stung for the purpose of this video. He must have had some experience dealing with that pain because, for most of us, it’s a reflex. We just swat it away.

[00:28:58] Dr. Kyle: A lot of times, beekeepers who have been stung become somewhat desensitized. One of the gentlemen that I’ve worked with said that he’s even been stung in his esophagus before, so he’s been stung everywhere. An interesting fact is that the male bees (drones) don’t have stingers. So when my kids come out to the bee yard with me, I will let my youngest handle the drones, since there’s no risk of him being stung.

[00:29:27] Dr. Lancellotti: Oh, that’s cute. The kids must love that, huh?

[00:29:29] Dr. Kyle: Yeah, they do.

Honeybee Health Coalition and Honeybee Veterinarian Consortium

[00:29:33] Dr. Lancellotti: We’ve talked a lot about different health aspects of beekeeping and medical problems. What are some of the big takeaway points that you’d like honeybee owners to remember?

[00:29:41] Dr. Kyle: The big one is not to underestimate varroa. If you are keeping bees, make sure that you’re monitoring regularly. There’s a really great reference on how to manage varroa. I was not part of putting it together, but it’s by the Honeybee Health Coalition. I’ll make sure that the link is attached to the notes for this podcast. On their website, they have great tools on how to do the tests, how to interpret the tests, and what treatments are available. Again, it’s really key to stay on top of their care, be proactive to problems, spot them early, and address them quickly, so that they don’t get out of hand. But after that, the bees really know what they’re doing. It’s incredible how meticulous, hardworking, and consistent they are in building their colonies. They know what they’re doing. They just need a little bit of help from us to keep them in good health.

[00:30:38] Dr. Lancellotti: Absolutely. You have given a number of resources, which I’m going to share with the listeners, so that they have some further places go for more information, as far as courses and different resources for learning about bees. What’s been the most helpful, in terms of resources for you?

[00:30:57] Dr. Kyle: Well, I have to give a shout out to the Honeybee Veterinary Consortium. I’ve been involved with that organization since 2018. It started not too long before I became involved with it and we’ve really seen it grow. We have a very active board of wonderful colleagues of mine who are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate. They volunteer so much time in trying to increase knowledge about honeybee veterinary medicine, trying to get education out there for veterinarians, and sharing resources, so that when a beekeeper calls looking for a veterinarian, they’re able to find one that knows about their animal. We also have a database on our website called Find a Vet, where you can input your postal code, and it pulls up any veterinarians that have identified themselves as being willing to work with beekeepers or see honey bee colonies. Hopefully, you can find a vet for yourself, but if you’re not able to find one, definitely contact the consortium. We have had luck finding vets by going through our network of members and talking to state apiarists. So far, we’ve been able to find a veterinarian for (I believe) every beekeeper that’s gotten in touch with us, in need of veterinary services for their colony. So don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

[00:32:26] Dr. Lancellotti: I think this is so important. Not only should pet owners of dogs and cats (and other small animals) have a family veterinarian that they trust, who is familiar with their pet, but I think that’s just as important, when you have a honeybee colony, as well. Have that relationship with a veterinarian, where you feel comfortable saying, “Hey, something’s going on. I’m not quite sure if this is a problem or not. What do you think?” so that you can catch problems early, before they become a really big issue.

[00:32:59] Dr. Kyle: Absolutely. Honeybees are quite different than all of the other animals that we learn about in vet school, but one thing that has amazed me is how much the core principles (the foundation of veterinary medicine) apply to honeybees. Even though veterinarians traditionally don’t have a lot of experience managing honeybee disease and promoting honeybee health, we do have a skillset that allows us to translate our knowledge into unique species. For beekeepers, don’t be afraid to talk to your veterinarian and see if they’re willing to learn about bees or to help you out. Don’t be afraid to let them come out and see your colonies, if you have them. And for veterinarians, don’t be intimidated by the fact that honeybees have 6 legs instead of 4. It is possible to work with them and it is actually not that different than the way that we approach other animals. With the consortium, we’re actually currently working on a certification program for veterinarians, so that they can get more formalized training- 150 continuing education hours. Essentially, we would help them access that, ensuring that they receive the proper resources, so that they have the competencies to go out and work with honeybee colonies. That’s something that’s coming (hopefully) this year, so keep an eye on the consortium website, if that’s something that interests you.

[00:34:32] Dr. Lancellotti: Oh, that’s really exciting! That’s such a great resource. You’ve given some really good links for resources for veterinary professionals who want more information on honeybee care, as well. For any veterinarians or technicians out there listening, who want more information, check out the show notes for those links.

Scratching the Itch

Dr. Lancellotti: Dr. Kyle, I like to end each episode with a segment called Scratching the Itch. It’s something that highlights either a human interest story, a product, or a website- just anything that provides relief or makes you feel good. Hence, scratching the itch. Do you have a ‘scratching the itch’ for our listeners, today?

[00:35:06] Dr. Kyle: Yes. I’m going to stay on-topic here and plug honeybees and pollinators, in general, a little bit more. One of the lessons I learned when I became a beekeeper was just how fascinating honeybees are, and how amazing it can be to just sit beside a colony and watch the bees go about their work. On a warm summer night, if I have a few minutes of quiet time, I will go and sit outside in my apiary and watch the bees coming and going, and it never ceases to amaze me. It has such a stress relieving aspect to it. It’s such a connection that you can feel. There are so many senses, both visual and auditory. You can hear the buzzing and you can smell the bees wax and the honey, and it’s just a wonderful experience. Anyone out there who has time to spend in a bee yard, with honeybee colonies, I highly recommend it, even if you’re not going to be a beekeeper. But even beyond that- once I became interested in honeybees, it opened up my world into wanting to see all of these other species of bees. There’s over 4,000 different types of bees in North America, not to mention all of the other pollinators. Spending time in a garden, watching them go about their work, and seeing what flowers they visit is absolutely fascinating. There was one night I can remember where I tore up a huge chunk of front lawn and I turned it into a native plant garden. It’s a lot of work to maintain, but this one evening in June, I was outside, it was dark, and my whole yard was just lit up with fireflies. It was such a magical moment that I dragged every kid out of bed and made them come out and see the fireflies. It was a sight I hadn’t seen since I had been a small child, so it’s amazing- the difference you can make when you start making little changes. And it’s amazing how rewarding it can be.

[00:37:14] Dr. Lancellotti: That sounds beautiful. I remember those firefly nights, growing up in Pennsylvania, when I was a little kid. The entire backyard was just being lit with this beautiful green glow. I loved that so much. We have a lot of hummingbirds here, in Southern California, and we’ve really tried to make a place for them to feel comfortable and welcome. I truly agree with you. It’s such a big stress reliever just sitting and watching the hummingbirds and all of the other different species that we have, going in and out of the garden. It’s really nice.

[00:37:43] Dr. Kyle: That’s amazing. I’m happy to hear that.

[00:37:45] Dr. Lancellotti: Dr. Kyle, thank you so much for coming on the show and talking about honeybees. This is a lot of really good information, and I hope that it leads some people to share the joy of honeybees that you’ve had in your life, as well.

[00:37:59] Dr. Kyle: Well, thank you so much for having me!

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