American Foul Brood

From Emily Vollmer, Jan 26, 2016:

I have some important information to share with the Tillamook Bee Club.  I think it would be good to share via email or at the next bee meeting. I may not be able to make it to the next meeting in February.

I’m in North Tillamook County and have a hive (dead colony now) that tested positive for American Foulbrood (AFB) so it will be important for other beekeepers to keep an eye out for it. I got the following information from Dewey Caron about how to sanitize and try to prevent spread of the disease and I want other beekeepers in our area to keep a lookout for AFB and know what to do if they find it.

A positive with AFB is serious. Sorry to hear the news.

Traditionally with an AFB hive ALL the frames (including those with honey) and the bees are burned. If the boxes and covers/bottom board are NEW and in good shape, the insides can be scraped well with the hive tool and then a portable torch used to char the inside (include the rim) and inside of covers and top side of the bottom board.

 The preferred burn method is to dig a pit big enough for how many frames you need burn and then at night kill the remaining bees (put gasoline in the colony and close it up well so no bees escape – bees will be dead in 5 minutes, then put the frames with brood in the pit and pour gasoline over  them and then get a roaring fire, add the honey filled frames on top and let burn. At end of burn put the dirt back over the embers of what is left of the frames (should be mostly ashes) – if you elect to burn boxes and covers, the pit will need to be bigger. You want to be able to put 3-5 inches of dirt over what has been burned.

 In areas where open burning is not permitted, then double bag in the study leaf bags and put in secure landfill – a landfill where everything is buried at end of the day.

 Washing the bee suit is usually all that is needed. If it has lots of propolis and washing just leave sit gray looking then yes get rid of it. Hive tools are usually scraped well (with another hive tool) then  burned in smoker and then wiped well with alcohol (when they cool).

Finally be very diligent and look for AFB the next two seasons in your apiary. Foulbrood comes from a colony that has foulbrood — the strongest colonies are the ones that get it (because they rob the weakened foulbrood diseased colony. That colony could be a colony of a neighbor beekeeper or from a feral colony in a tree. The original source of the infection may not have been eliminated when you kill the colony that has had the positive diagnosis. So continue due diligence.

 Hope this helps some. Good luck – it is “hard” work to have to kill a colony and then burn the frames, including the honey. Do NOT attempt to salvage the honey – honey is well-know to harbor AFB spores. Doing a poor job the first time will only prolong the agony

Also FYI if you want to test a colony for disease (free of charge) you can send a

*********   AFB Info and Testing  *********

  • Caused by: Bacillus larvae
  • Spore-forming bacterium
  • Highly contagious
  • Brood Disease

American Foulbrood (AFB) is an infectious brood disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus larvae. It is the most widespread and destructive of the brood diseases, afflicting queen, drone, and worker larvae alike. Adult bees, however, are not affected by AFB.

Bacillus larvae occurs in two forms: vegetative (rod-shaped bacterial cells) and spores. Only the spore stage is infectious to honey bees. The spores germinate into the vegetative stage soon after they enter the larval gut and continue to multiply until larval death. American foulbrood spores are highly-resistant to desiccation, heat, and chemical disinfectants. These spores can remain virulent for more than forty years in combs and honey.

Send a sample to the USDA lab (that’s what I did).   Follow this link for more information:

USDA Research Documents

“Bee Disease Diagnosis Service” for beekeepers across the U.S. There is no charge for this service.

Samples received of adult bees and beeswax comb (with and without bee brood) are examined for bacterial, fungal and protozoan diseases as well as for two species of parasitic mites and other pests associated with honey bees (i.e., small hive beetle, Aethina tumida).

When requested, samples are cultured to test for sensitivity to the antibiotics Terramycin and Tylan

Disease & Pest Info

Disease Diagnosis Service

How to Submit Samples

Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research & Extension Consortium