In veterinary school you were taught how to diagnose and treat just about every animal species, but you probably had little education – if any – on honey bees. Until the federal government's Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule was issued, most veterinarians in the United States had little to no reason to be concerned about apiculture (beekeeping) and honey bee medicine. As a result of the VFD rule and changes in FDA policy on medically important antimicrobials, however, honey bees now fall into veterinarians’ purview, and you may be called on to treat them.
AVMA's member veterinarians have access to resources to help increase your knowledge of honey bee medicine:
The above resources are available only for the use of AVMA members.
Honey bees are classified as livestock/food-producing animals by the federal government because products from apiculture enter the human food chain, including honey, propolis, pollen, and royal jelly. The requirements for completing a VFD order or prescription for honey bees are the same as for any other food-producing animal; the federal rule restricts beekeepers from using any medically important antibiotics (outlined in FDA guidance 152 appendix A) in their honey bees without either a VFD order or a prescription from a veterinarian. The rule applies equally to hobbyists and commercial beekeeping enterprises.
For a VFD order or prescription to be lawful, the veterinarian and the beekeeper must have a valid Veterinarian-Client Patient Relationship (VCPR). A valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship according to the federal definition is one in which:
Some states have additional VCPR requirements. To determine what constitutes a valid VCPR in your state, visit the FDA listing of VCPR requirements by state, and follow AVMA’s guidelines for VCPRs.