CATCH THE BUZZ – Status Change For Antibiotics In A Beehive. Bees, It Seems, Are No Different Than Chickens Or Cows. Which Isn’t A Bad Thing

From I. Barton Smith, Entomologist, USDA Honey Bee Research Lab, Beltsville, MD

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On December 11, 2013, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a plan to help phase out the use of medically important antimicrobials in food animals for food production purposes, such as to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency.  The plan would also phase in veterinary oversight of the remaining appropriate therapeutic uses of such drugs.  See

Implementation will require a beekeeper to get a prescription or veterinarian feed directive (VFD) from a veterinarian who has a “Veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR)” with the beekeeper in order to purchase and feed antibiotics to honey bees for the prevention and control of American and European foulbrood diseases.  A list of drugs affected by this plan can be found at:

It should be noted that the list includes oxytetracycline (Terramycin), lincomycin (Lincomix) and tylosin (Tylan) which were over the counter drugs labeled for controlling American foulbrood (AFB) in honey bee colonies.   Oxytetracycline was also labeled for preventing AFB, and for the control and prevention of European foulbrood.

The FDA has been working with companies that produce antibiotics to make label changes on their products.  During 2014, Elanco Animal Health changed the label for Tylan Soluble Powder to be prescription only.  (Most existing stock of the over-the-counter product in the U.S. has been sold out and is no longer available at the time of this writing – 8-2015.)  A copy of the new label can be viewed at

Zoetis, the maker of Lincomix, still has the product labeled for sale over-the-counter.  See the attached pdf file.  This product will be changed to prescription only before or by the end of 2016.  (An exact time-line for the change has not been determined.)

On June 2, 2015, the FDA announced the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule.  See  Drugs included under the VFD will require a veterinarian to write a VFD for a producer that will allow that person to purchase and use the product specifically as written.  This will include oxytetracycline.

Prescription drugs for bees can only be obtained from a local or on-line pharmacy.  Additionally, drugs included in the VFD may only be obtained from a licensed medicated feed mill.

At the time of this writing (8-2015), it is unclear if Fumagilin B will be subject to the new requirements.

From I. Barton Smith, Entomologist, USDA Honey Bee Research Lab, Beltsville, MD