October is American foulbrood (AFB) Awareness month in NSW – a joint initiative between NSW DPI and the Amateur Beekeepers Association NSW, the North Shore Beekeepers Association, NSW Apiarists' Association and Steritech.
Although this awareness month is specific to NSW, it is something that we, as beekeepers, need to be vigilant about across Australia at all times of the year.
AFB is the highly destructive effect of the spore-forming bacterium, Paenibacillius larvae. Bee larvae under three days old ingest the spores which germinate in, and derive nourishment from, the gut of the larva.
In its vegetative form, the bacteria will die along with the larva, however, it will first produce many millions of spores. These spores will spread throughout the hive, and then to other colonies.
If left untreated or unmanaged, almost all infected hives will weaken and die over the course of months to two years.
Read more about AFB here.
It is a devastating disease, and highly infectious—not only can it be spread from bee to bee at foraging and mating grounds, but also any beekeeping equipment (this includes hive tools and suits) used with an AFB affected hive will also be contaminated and must be treated, or will also transfer AFB to the next colony you use your gear on.
AFB Awareness month is not only about being a responsible beekeeper and member of the wider beekeeping community, but also a good reminder to get out and inspect your hives as spring draws nearer to summer – especially if you see decreased activity in the front of your hive, it is a sign that you need to check your colony.
Please inspect your hives as soon as you can, and help spread the word.
AFB is reportable in all states and territories in Australia. If you suspect your hive has contracted this bacteria, please contact your state or territory Department of Primary Industry. In most states and territories, it is free to send a sample off for testing.