Bee Disease Detected on the Big Island of Hawai‘i

May 15, 2018, 12:30 PM HST (Updated May 15, 2018, 12:30 PM)

The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture reports that a honey bee colony infected with American Foulbrood (AFB) was recently confirmed by Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture staff in the Hāmākua District of Hawai‘i Island.

AFB is a bacterial disease that creates spores that can be viable for 50-80 years and is easily spread from colony to colony by robbing bees, tainted tools, or infected equipment. It is characterized in the field by a very foul smell and a spotty brood pattern with sunken and perforated cappings. Typically the brood developing in the cells are brown and putrid. The classic field test for AFB is to insert a small stick into the infected brood cells and if the larvae inside can pull out in a rope 2 cm, it is typically AFB positive.

AFB is an extremely infectious and deadly disease that plagues honey bees. Historically, AFB wiped out much of Hawai‘i’s honeybee population in the 1930’s, and since the spores will always be present, the best strategy for prevention is early detection. The Hawai‘i Apiary Program has no regulatory authority in this situation though we do recommend best management practices established for AFB, which are to burn the infected colonies and equipment, then follow up with sterilizing hive tools and washing bee suits. Control and mitigation of this disease was the original reason that apiary inspection programs were created in the early 1900’s, nationwide.

Abandoned hives or exposed empty equipment in your area could also be a source of disease. When a colony is weakened by AFB, other bees will visit to rob and bring the disease home to their colonies.

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For this reason, HDOA recommends that everyone take this time to learn what it looks like to educate themselves about AFB and check for any problems in their hives as soon as possible.



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