The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a conditional license for a vaccine that protects honeybees against American Foulbrood disease, Dalan Animal Health, the biotech company behind the drug, announced Wednesday.

The disease, which is caused by Paenibacillus larvae, infects the bee’s larvae. Traditionally, when bees get sick with American Foulbrood disease, their hives, as well as any equipment in contact with the infected hives, must be incinerated, the statement said. This in turn, reduces the honeybee population, and in turn, affects the world’s food supply. 

This new vaccine is the first of its kind to prevent this from happening, the biotech company said.

The vaccine, which contains a dead cell of the virus, is administered to the bees through the queen feed that worker bees consume. The worker bees then transfer the vaccine into the royal jelly and feed it to the queen. As a result, the vaccine gets deposited into her ovaries, giving larvae immunity when they hatch.

The drug is non-GMO, Dalan Animal Health said, and can be utilized in organic farming.

Honeybees are an important part of agriculture as they pollinate crops needed to supply the world’s food supply, Dalan Animal Health explained.     

“This is an exciting step forward for beekeepers, as we rely on antibiotic treatment that has limited effectiveness and requires lots of time and energy to apply to our hives,” said Trevor Tauzer, a board member of the California State Beekeepers Association, in the news release. “If we can prevent an infection in our hives, we can avoid costly treatments and focus our energy on other important elements of keeping our bees healthy.”  

Dalan Animal Health develops immune treatments for invertebrates to prevent harmful diseases from spreading amongst honeybees, shrimp, worms and other insects.