The effect of the Veterinary Feed Directive on Queen Bee Production

            First some background information.  American foulbrood and European foulbrood are bacterial diseases that can, if left untreated, kill the host colony and infect other colonies in the apiary.  American foulbrood is so contagious that a single infected colony can infect and kill every colony in a county.  European foulbrood is more common, slightly less dangerous and very contagious. For this reason, every state has a bee inspection program that regulates the sale and movement of honeybee colonies within and between states. 

            American foulbrood and European foulbrood spores are found in all hives.  All established hives are infected but not yet sick.  In years prior to 2017, the common practice was to treat all hives with Terramycin at least sixty-six days before the beginning of the nectar flow to suppress the foulbrood.  This allows the beekeepers to prevent an outbreak in time to put honey supers on their hives and prevent any chance of contamination of the honey.

                 The new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) regulation that came into force on January 1, 2017 changed procedures.  Terramycin could only be obtained with a VFD.  A VFD would only be written if a hive tested positive for one of the forms of foulbrood.  The prophylactic treatment of hives became illegal.

            While this may seem on its face to be a reasonable regulation, the effect on the business of beekeeping can be catastrophic.  It is a matter of the timing of the inspections. The state inspectors will come to inspect sometime in late March and in April.  It is too cold to inspect earlier.  If the inspectors on April 1 discover a colony in your apiary that tests positive for foulbrood you cannot get a heath certificate until the apiary is disease free.  This means you cannot sell your queens or bees.  You must treat your hives or they will die.  It will take about a week to get the VFD and receive the Terramycin. It takes fifteen days to give each hive multiple treatments.  The beekeeper must then wait 45 days after treatment for the bees to clear the hive of Terramycin before the honey supers can be put on the hives.  This is a total of 67 days of no honey production. If a hive tests positive on April 1st the best case for getting the honey supers on the hives is June 5th.  The nectar flow in most areas ends the first week in June.  There will be no honey for the year, which means no income for the year.

            For queen breeders the problem is worse. To make up the starter/finisher hives and mating nucleus hives donor hives are robbed of bees and brood.  The weakened donor hives and weak mating nucleus hives are susceptible to AFB and EFB.  Without prophylactic treatment one of fifty donor hives or 120 mating nucleus hives is going to test positive for foulbrood.  Queen breeders sell bees.  To sell queens or bees, the breeder must have a certificate of health.  If a queen breeder’s hives test positive for foulbrood they must treat the hives and wait for re-inspection.  During this time queen production stops and can only start again after the re-inspection.  The demand for queens is in the spring.  If a queen breeder cannot sell queens and bees in the spring there will be no income for the year. Because of the timing there can be no honey production either.

              I do not know what others are experiencing but this new regulation has put me out of business for the year. I do not own the bees I own their home.  The bees must pay their rent, if not, they are just a very expensive hobby.

Veterinary Feed Directive Information

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has amended the new animal drug regulations to implement the veterinary feed directive (VFD) drugs section of the Animal Drug Availability Act of 1996 (ADAA). On June 3, 2015, the FDA published in the Federal Register the final rule revising the VFD regulations in 21 CFR Part 558. The final rule became effective on October 1, 2015. In September of 2015, FDA revised Guidance for Industry #120, Veterinary Feed Directive Regulation to reflect the VFD final rule.

A VFD drug is intended for use in animal feeds, and such use of the VFD drug is permitted only under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

Change of email address

Yahoo has sold off it's online business program to Aaboca Small Business. As a result of this we have lost the link to our email address.  We are trying to fix this.  Until we can please email us at

The First Queen Cell

The first queen cells of the year are in the mating nucleus hives.  Within the next two to three weeks, the newly emerged virgin queens will mate and begin laying.  All that is needed are several days with the temperature above 68 degrees so they can fly.

The season has truly begun!

Two queens in one hive!


While checking my hives on a very warm winters day I discovered a very rare event, two laying queens.  The queen on the left is most likely the daughter of the marked queen.  Come spring there will be one.  If they survive until March I will put one of them in a nucleus hive.

The 2014 Season Begins!

Maybe we should say the season is beginning and we are very excited.  As you may remember, it rained a lot last year.  This hurt our hive build up and honey production.  If the workers cannot get out of the hive, no nectar or pollen can be gathered.  Try as they might, virgin queens just cannot fly in the rain.  None of these problems will happen this year.   The weather will be perfect.  It will only rain at night.  All the virgin queens will return from their mating flights.   Every production hive will have 120 pounds of honey to rob.  And, we believe in unicorns and pixie dust.

Hunter Apiaries is anticipating a much better year.  We are looking to increase queen production by at least a third and, for the first time, we are going to try our hand at instrumental insemination in the late summer.  We are also going to add videos to our website that will cover queen related subjects and any other honey bee related topic that catches our fancy.

Finally, If you have a question or problem let us know.  We will do our best to answer you from our experience.  If the problem is one of general interest, we may add it to our website or it could become the subject of a video.  

We hope all of you have a very happy and productive 2014 season.


So, you have a defensive hive?

Your hive has become defensive.  It has become aggressive, mean, painful and just not a pleasure to work with.  We call them defensive hives because we never want to call a hive aggressive.  Civilians just do not like to hear of aggressive hives.  It brings up images from the movie, "The Swarm."  I like to call them hot hives.  

There are reasons other than genetics for a hot hive.  The hive may be under attack from raccoon or skunk.  You may be going into the hive too often.  The nectar flow is over and the hive is now under pressure from robbers.  Try to correct these possibilities before assuming the cause is genetic.

Having said this, the problem is probably genetic.  Your nice docile bees have lost their queen and the replacement queen mated with drones with defensive genes.  Enough of the new queen's offspring have emerged to change the hive behavior.    

Hot hives are difficult and unpleasant to deal with.  Re-queening is the solution; the problem is finding the old queen.  The best thing you can do is move the hive a short distance, more than 10 feet, and set up a new hive in the old location.  The field bees and guard bees will return to the new hive where you can kill them or just let them die in a few weeks. The best time to do this is in mid-afternoon on a nice day when most field bees are out. Moving the hive can be a painful experience, but it is less painful than trying to find the queen where the hive used to be.  With the hive population now reduced and consisting only of house bees, you can go through the hive to find the queen. A new queen can be then introduced.  Make sure the hot hive does not have or create any queen cells.

When you think you have lost your queen.

Every beekeeper is familiar with the sinking feeling that comes from exhaustively looking through a hive for some sign there is a laying queen.  You have plenty of bees but no eggs.  There may be plenty of brood but your queen has not laid any eggs in the last few days.   

When you enter a hive resist the impulse to cut the queen cells.  If there are eggs and queen cells present the hive is beginning the process of swarming.  Check for the queen and if she is present it is safe to take remove any queen cells.  To prevent the possibility of bees replacing a old queen always make sure your queen is less than two years old.  

You enter your hive and find no eggs and queen cells. When this happens it is important to find the queen.  Your hive is either preparing to swarm, has swarmed or the queen is dead.  The presence of the queen determines what you will do with the queen cells.  If the queen is present remove the queen cell frames with covering bees from the hive and place them in a nucleus hive.  The virgin queens will emerge, mate and return to the nucleus hive.  You now have a spare queen.  If the queen is not present your hive may have swarmed or the queen is dead In this case you need purchase a new queen or let the hive requeen itself. 

When you find no eggs, no brood and no queen the hive may be hopelessly queenless or it could have a virgin queen.  Virgin queens are difficult to find.  They are just about the size of a worker and are just hard to see and they hang out on the fringes of the hive. They may be on orienting or mating flights when your are in the hive. The sound of the queenless roar my only indicate the virgin is out of the hive. 

The hive must be tested for queenlessness by adding a frame of young brood without covering bees.  If the hive is truly queenless the workers will begin to make queen cells.  If they do not start queen cells then the hive has a virgin queen that should begin to lay shortly.  It is best to keep a close eye on the hive.   If the virgin has not begun laying within two weeks then she did not return from her mating flight.  The best choice if this happens is to purchase a queen.