USDA Approves Vaccine for Honeybees

by Derek Ver Helst

Bee health is getting the buzz it deserves with a new vaccine to fight American foulbrood, a fatal bacterial disease that is decimating bee populations across the country. The first-ever USDA approved vaccine for insects, along with improved, holistic ecosystem management practices, are both showing promise for protecting and rebuilding the population of these important pollinators. 

The Critical Role of Bees 

Bees play a critical role for the health of ecosystems around the world – including the health and security of our food systems. As honeybees consume pollen and nectar, they pollinate about a third of the world’s food crops, allowing them to grow and flower. In addition to natural occurrences, beekeepers often lease their hives and colonies to farmers to assist in annual pollinations of crops like almonds, pears, cherries, and apples, among others.  

However, in recent years, bee populations have decreased at alarming rates, posing a great threat to our natural and agricultural systems. Many factors have contributed to this crisis, including parasites, habitat loss, exposure to pesticides, climate change, and disease. 

A First-Of-Its-Kind Vaccine 

One such disease is American foulbrood (AFB), a fatal bacterial disease affecting honeybee colonies around the world. Infection can severely weaken even a healthy and strong colony, leading to its complete collapse. Once many of the brood have died and the colony is collapsing, the hive will produce a foul odor, contributing to the name of the disease. 

Previously, the only way to manage AFB was to destroy infected colonies and materials – making the new USDA-approved vaccine a much-needed innovation for supporting bee health and productivity. The vaccine is feed to the queen bee in an infused sugar mixture. She then passes the immunity down to her offspring, and over time, immunity spreads throughout the entire colony. 

Ecosystem Management for Pollinator Health 

While it is a revolutionary innovation, the vaccine is not a magic bullet for protecting bees, as it addresses only one cause of bee population decline. Many other natural and anthropogenic factors have contributed to the recent decline of bee populations. Understanding these factors and addressing the interaction of species in an environment is important to overall sustainability, biodiversity, and longevity goals. 

By utilizing the principles of regenerative agriculture, farmers and ranchers are promoting bee health with nature-based solutions. For example, flowering cover crops and pollinator-friendly buffer plantings support pollinators, while also agronomically benefiting agricultural crops. Similarly, improved soil health practices can lead to reduced pesticide use, which protects these beneficial insects.  

With these improved management practices, agriculture is specially positioned to help mitigate and reverse environmental degradation, having a profound and positive impact – not just on bees, but on the ecosystem as a whole. 

Learn More and Next Steps 

Farmers, NGOs, government partners, and companies worldwide are investing in the natural solutions that agriculture offers for pollinator health. 

Certifications: Brands are working toward certifications like Bee Better Certified or Bee Friendly Farming Certified, while other companies have made significant commitments to support and source from bee-friendly farms. See how Blue Diamond and KIND are supporting pollinators.

Improved Practices: Research suggests that pollinator-friendly plantings yield agronomic, economic, and environmental benefits on farms. Learn more about agriculture’s role in pollinator conservation and ecosystem service delivery.

AgSpire works across the agriculture value chain to develop and implement sustainable agriculture projects that promote pollinator health, among other ecosystem benefits like soil health, carbon capture, and water conservation. Contact Us to visit with our landowner advisory team and learn more about supporting bee health.

About the Author

Senior Conservation Agronomist

Derek has over 15 years of experience working with landowners and corporations to design, manage, and validate research trials, maximizing short- and long-term crop outputs. With a continued passion for conservation and the natural ecosystem, he is focused on the natural symbiosis organisms have with one another in the environment. Always eager to learn, he is continuously expanding his knowledge of soil health, chemistry, and pest disease management.

Derek holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from South Dakota State University and a master’s degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University. He is also a Certified Crop Advisor and Technical Service Provider through NRCS.

2022 In Review: Scaling Regenerative Agriculture as We Grow

2022 was a year of growth at AgSpire.

Since our founding two years ago, our team has diligently worked to expand and amplify positive land use practices. We believe that agriculture-based solutions and land stewardship hold significant potential for the health of our planet. Soil health, water and air quality, biodiversity, wildlife and pollinator habitat, and bio sequestration of carbon are just a few of the many outcomes of positive land use practices resulting in shared societal benefits.

In 2022, we were able to make huge strides in seeing our approach take root and our impact grow. As our client and project portfolio grew, we’ve helped implement positive land use practices on a total of 500,000 acres. With personalized assistance to producers and a deep knowledge of public and private incentive programs, we are able to see successful implementation.

AgSpire's Year in Review: expanding our reach, new projects, and new partners.

Building Our Capacity

One of our biggest priorities in 2022 was to grow our internal capacity, building a team that is rooted in the agriculture community and committed to positive land use changes. The AgSpire team grew from two at the beginning of 2022, to eight at the end of the year – with additional team members joining us in the new year.

We welcomed our first CEO in June. Aline DeLucia comes to AgSpire with diverse experiences in the agriculture industry – from nutrition and animal science to business management and stakeholder engagement – providing well-rounded and pragmatic leadership for AgSpire and our clients.

Joining the business development, operations, and management functions are Julia Andrus as Director of Marketing & Communications and Christian Lovell as a Program Manager. They join our AgSpire veterans Jared Knock and Vivian Georgalas in expanding AgSpire’s reach and ability to serve our clients’ sustainability needs.

We also added to our technical expertise, welcoming Dale Strickler, Derek Ver Helst, and Matthew Delbar. Each brings deep understanding and experience in conservation, grazing and crop management, and regenerative agriculture implementation.

AgSpire's team grew in 2022.

Forging New Partnerships

 AgSpire is proud to partner with organizations across the agriculture industry to build resilience into our agriculture and food systems.

This year, we were selected as a project partner for NGOs, universities, businesses, and other service providers under multiple USDA-funded Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities projects. Through these projects, AgSpire will impact an estimated 4.3 million acres over the next 5 years and will empower farmers and ranchers to make their operations more resilient, diversified, and holistically managed.

Expanding Our Advisory Services

Our clients have sustainability goals – and we provide sustainability strategy development, expertise in conservation practice implementation, and knowledge of public and private incentive programs to drive results to meet those goals.

In 2022, we launched new projects with new and existing clients, developing and testing strategies that produce real results. We work with our clients to conceptualize nature-based solutions, providing direction to advance their sustainability goals. Our technical landowner advisors then work directly with producers to successfully implement that strategy and achieve quantifiable outcomes for the land.

Looking back on the year, we are thankful for our clients and partners who have trusted us to advance sustainability and steward the land. The AgSpire team wishes you a Happy New Year – and we look froward to continuing to scale regenerative agriculture in 2023.

Amplifying Positive Land Use Practices through Partnerships

USDA announces Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities projects

(BROOKINGS, SD, Wednesday, September 14, 2022) AgSpire, an organization that amplifies the implementation of positive land use practices through handson, customized plans with farmers and
ranchers, has been named project partner on multiple USDA Partnerships for ClimateSmart Commodities projects. As a part of these projects, AgSpire will continue their mission to provide customized solutions to farmers, ranchers, and landowners, and empower them to help make their operations more resilient, diversified, and holistically managed through information and expertise.

“Today’s announcement shows USDA’s commitment to advancing adoption and implementation of climatesmart practices, and we are thrilled to be part of that journey. AgSpire will bring its expertise in
conservation practice implementation to assist producers with adoption of practices that can create positive land use outcomes. Collaborations and partnerships are key to achieving the ultimate goal of creating shared societal benefits through the land for generations to come,” said Aline DeLucia, CEO of AgSpire.

With these projects, AgSpire will have the opportunity to touch over 4.3 million acres through working directly with producers to create tailored management plans.  Powered by landowner advisors with
regional knowledge and expertise, AgSpire is dedicated to supporting producers as they work toward impactful outcomes that begin with changes on the land, and these projects will continue that mission.

For more information on the USDA Partnerships for ClimateSmart Commodities, please visit

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