As a beekeeper, there are several measures you can adopt to control American foulbrood (AFB). An apiary officer can explain these to you. These include burning infected bees and brood combs, equipment sterilisation and management practices to prevent further disease spread.
Destroy the equipment if it's not bee-proof or is rotting. Seal the hives and kill the bees. Obtain permission from the local fire warden or fire services department before lighting a fire.
Depending on how much equipment is to be burnt, you should dig a large hole and start the fire in the hole. Combs burn more quickly if thrown on individually. Burn the metal lids last. Ensure all the dead bees are put into the fire otherwise some infective material may remain.
Shovel any remaining material into the fire and cover the ashes with 300 mm of soil.
If the equipment is in good condition and well maintained, it still needs to be sterilised. Kill the bees, and burn the brood combs and bees as described above.
Three methods are available:
- gamma irradiation
- scorching (not suitable for wax combs or plastic components)
- heating by specially designed heat box.
Management practices are discussed with you when AFB is diagnosed. Once AFB is identified, you are required to manage AFB responsibility to prevent further contamination within the infected apiary and ensure that neighbouring apiaries are not infected.
Undertake regular inspections of brood, and remove or destroy diseased hives, before migrating and, preferably, removing honey.
Other management practices include:
- working clean yards before examining yards in which infection has occurred
- washing overalls and other clothing after inspections
- sterilising hive tools by burning with methylated spirits before working each hive
- using a barrier system to manage all of the apiary.
It is essential to number brood chambers and honey supers. Honey combs are returned to their super after extraction. Each apiary should contain the same number of hives (e.g. 100), and the brood chambers and honey supers should be numbered (e.g. from 1 to 100). Super number 1 goes on brood chamber number 1 in any apiary. When disease appears, inspect all hives bearing that number.
Remove as much of the old honey as possible from the brood nest and replace the frames with foundations. After extraction, these brood combs can be destroyed or sterilised.
An apiary officer can give you directions for properly managing an AFB outbreak in a timely manner under legislation.
An apiary is considered free of AFB after either:
- two clean inspections have been performed no less than two months apart
- two clean bulk-honey culture tests have been obtained not less than four months apart that are representative of all owners' hives.