Bee Health

This page will have various posts relating to bee health and disease. It's an ongoing project so if you have any topics you would like covered, please email the webmaster.

The Foulbroods.

Both European Foulbrood (EFB) and American Foulbrood (AFB) are bacterial diseases; both are latent in the environment. EFB can survive for 30-40+ years whilst AFB spores are known to survive at least 80 years, perhaps longer. AFB spores may be as long-lived as Anthrax.

Once active the bacteria can transfer from colony to colony on live bees and is one reason why it can be hard to pinpoint the source of an outbreak, which could be a feral colony in an old tree or a blocked-up chimney. Infection can also be transmitted by beekeepers, which is why inter-apiary hygiene is important.

Incidence of AFB is low, with 74 confirmed cases throughout the whole of mainland Britain during 2017. The last time AFB was found in our association’s area was twenty or so years ago; the most recent on the Island in 2009 and near Guildford in 2014.

The picture for the much more common EFB is different, with 492 infected colonies in England, Wales, and Scotland confirmed during 2017. The most relevant to us at New Forest were in the 10km OS grid squares that includes Ringwood.

There's no shame in having a colony that's infected by either of the foulbroods - the shame would be to do nothing. Containment of outbreaks is due to the vigilance of beekeepers and the rapid reaction of our excellent national inspection service.

Remember, though, that both foulbroods are statutory notifiable diseases and therefore, “beekeepers are legally obligated to report any suspected diseased colonies under the Bee Diseases and Pests Control Order 2006 (as amended).”

Here's a quick rundown of the symptoms of both foulbroods, and what you should do.

Symptoms of AFB – which usually kills the larvae *after they have been capped.

*cue - remember the 'a' – American/after capping.

  • Uneven or 'Pepper-pot' brood pattern;
  • Sunken, greasy or perforated, darkened cell cappings;
  • Roping, sticky larval remains when drawn out with a matchstick;
  • Dark "scales", which are difficult to remove from cells.

Symptoms of EFB – which is seen *early, in larvae before they are capped.

*cue – remember the 'e' = European/early/before capping

  • Erratic or uneven brood pattern;
  • Twisted larvae with creamy-white guts (empty of food) visible through the body wall;
  • Melted down, yellowy white larvae;
  • An unpleasant sour odour;
  • Loosely-attached brown scales;
  • Unlike AFB, the remains of larvae that die from EFB do not rope when drawn out with a matchstick.

If you suspect foulbrood you should:-

If possible, take a photograph of the infected cells/larvae, so you can send this to the NBU inspector(s), then:-

  • Close the hive. i.e. Put the crownboard and roof on. Don't completely close the entrance, because returning foragers will try to beg their way into adjacent colonies.
  • Reduce the hive entrance to prevent robbing.
  • Disinfect your beekeeping equipment and gloves before examining other colonies, or, if you use disposable gloves, put on a new pair;
  • Scrub your footwear and bag up your bee suit/smoker/hive tool etc in a large plastic bag on leaving the apiary, and then launder or disinfect as appropriate;
  • Contact a Seasonal Bee Inspector (SBI) or a member of the association’s Bee Health Team (see below);
  • Do not remove any colonies, equipment, or honey from the apiary until the disease (if confirmed) has been controlled. This is a self-imposed 'Standstill' which is a requirement under the legislation.

Whoever you choose to contact will come and see your bees as soon as possible and will test the colony using a Lateral Flow Device, which gives a very quick diagnosis. If positive you will be advised what to do next.

New Forest & District BKA is lucky to have a couple of NBU-trained volunteers who you can contact for advice so, if you think your bees might have foulbrood, or indeed any other brood disorder, please don't ignore the symptoms, and don't panic – we're at the end of a phone.

And finally - the NBU contacts owners of all registered apiaries within 3km radius of a confirmed infection but, because of privacy issues, nobody else is informed - not even the association. This is where we need your help. If you receive an email alert, or your bees are diagnosed with a notifiable disease, please let us know so we can warn everybody in the association to be extra careful. Please be assured that your name would never be disclosed.

National Bee Unit:-

Regional Bee Inspector (Southern Region)

Peter Davies
Mobile No: 07900 292160

NFDBKA's Bee Health Team:

contact from the members area.

Bee Health

Jul 8, 2018


Most Recent Posts

© New Forest & District Beekeepers Association.

Website by OM International