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Foulbrood


American foulbrood (AFB) is a very destructive disease affecting the brood of the temperate and sub-tropical regions of the world. The disease is not confined to the Americas and occurs in all areas where the European Honey bee lives.

The disease is contagious and can remain dormant for decades. It is therefore vital to avoid destruction of hives to identify and eradicate the disease as soon as possible before it becomes established and spreads.

American foulbrood disease does not affect adult bees. The spore-forming bacteria, Paenibacillus larvae, attacks the brood only.

Solitary capped cells from which brood has not emerged can be seen.These caps are often different in appearance darker in colour, concave, and may even be punctured.

As the disease spreads, more brood is affected and an irregular pattern of sealed and unsealed brood cells can be seen.

The colour of the dead brood can be off white, light-dark brown and is soft to touch.

Impact of Disease

Older larvae or pupae start to die
Greater numbers of dead brood throughout the colony
Neighbouring colonies affected
Outward spread to other apiaries

Sources of Disease

Contaminated second hand equipment
Contact with bees from other hives
Beekeepers transferring spores from hive to hive
Honey from foreign hives with disease

Testing for Disease

Microbial examination of brood

Insert a small stick, match or toothpick is inserted into the body of the soft dead larva and slowly, pull the stick backwards. If the disease is present, the dead larva will adhere to the tip of the stick, stretching for up to 2.5 cm before breaking and snapping back in a somewhat elastic way. This stretching typifies American foulbrood disease, but it can be observed in soft brood only. Once the dead brood have dried into scales, the test does not work.

Control

Destruction of brood, combs and frames by fire essential
Disinfection/destruction of hives
Bees maybe saved using an artificial swarming method
Supplementary treatment with drugs can also be added

European FoulBrood (EFB)

The Distribution of European foulbrood is similar to that of American foulbrood, basically anywhere that the European Honey Bee can be found, you can find European foulbrood. The devastating effects seen with American foulbrood are not always reflected in European foulbrood.

How do I spot it?

Like American foulbrood European foulbrood does not affect adult bees, although the larvae are affected at an earlier age (4-5 days).
Young (4-5 days old) larvae die before being capped.
The dead larvae colour ranges from white to yellow to brown.
Dry, the rubbery scales of larvae killed don’t stick to the walls of the cells (unlike American foulbrood)
The dead larvae can smell sour

Sources of Disease

Contaminated second hand equipment
Contact with bees from other hives
Beekeepers transferring disease from hive to hive
Honey from foreign hives with disease

Testing for Disease

Microbial examination of brood

Control

Early days stimulating bee hygiene within the hive
Removing affected comb
Heavy infestation may require disinfection/destruction of hives
Supplementary treatment with drugs can also be used

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