American Foulbrood (AFB) disease is the most damaging bee disease in Fiji. It kills bee colonies and there is no cure. The key to controlling AFB is PREVENTION.
Early detection of AFB
During the past few years, more than half the apiaries in Fiji that became infected with AFB only lost one or two hives because it was diagnosed early and the hives were destroyed. However, some apiaries lost five or more hives, a few more than 10, and one apiary lost 25(!) hives. Most were preventable losses. See the photo above.
The apiaries that lost more than a few hives either didn’t inspect the brood in their hives often enough or didn’t diagnose and correct an AFB problem.
How AFB Spreads
By far, AFB is most easily spread when healthy bees eat AFB-infected honey. This most often happens when an AFB-infected colony becomes weak and is robbed of its honey by neighboring colonies. AFB is also easily spread by harvesting honey from an AFB-infected hive and returning the empty ‘wet’ frames to another hive.
Recommendations To Avoid High AFB Losses
- Look at the health of the brood in each colony at least twice a year, and weak hives more often. When a hive is weak, find out why. Old queen? Starving bees? Disease? Inspecting doesn’t mean lifting every frame in every hive, but enough that you’re convinced there are not problems.
- If sick brood is detected but you are unsure of the cause, contact an experienced beekeeper or the local BAF office to diagnose the problem. Early diagnosis is important to avoid spreading disease.
Not all sick and dying brood are AFB. There are several causes for sick brood, including nutrition deficiencies, and fortunately most of the time sick brood does not mean AFB. However, the problem should be diagnosed by highly-skilled beekeeper or BAF.
- If a hive is diagnosed with AFB, burn and bury the hive and bees. Care should be taken so bees from nearly hives cannot eat any honey from the burnt hive. Report the AFB incident to your local Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) office as required by law so they can inspect every nearby hive. BAF can also help with the burning of diseased hives.
BAF Permit To Move Bees
BAF requires that beekeepers obtain a permit to move bees to reduce the spread of AFB. Moving bees does not spread AFB in itself, but if the moved bees have AFB it can create a new “hot spot” of AFB in the new location.
Request a permit and BAF will inspect your hives for AFB at no cost to the beekeeper.
The current BAF regulation on moving bees appears below: