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Headshot of Juan Felipe Herrera

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor poses with a statue that is now on display in the Bronx, where she grew up.

When bees get sick, it can cause big problems for people. In 2023, scientists said they created a vaccine that can help honeybees stay healthy. It’s the world’s first vaccine for honeybees.

A vaccine is something that is put in an animal’s body to help protect the animal from a certain disease. There are vaccines for humans and many other species of animals. The vaccine that scientists made for honeybees protects them against a disease called foulbrood. Foulbrood can kill off entire hives of honeybees. 

Honeybee health is very important to people. That’s because honeybees are pollinators. They fly to plants that have flowers to collect pollen and nectar. The pollen and nectar are food for all the bees in the hive. When bees visit flowers, they end up spreading pollen from flower to flower. If plants aren’t pollinated, they can’t grow seeds to make new plants. And all the fruits and vegetables we eat come from plants. Without pollinators like bees, we wouldn’t have a lot of our food.

So, the bee vaccine isn’t meant to help just the bees. It’s meant to help humans, too, by protecting our food supply.

Many vaccines are given by needle, but bees are way too small for that. The bee vaccine is fed to the queen bee—the bee that lays all the eggs for the hive. Once the queen bee is protected from the disease, all the eggs she lays will be protected from the disease as well.

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