American foulbrood and European foulbrood disease

No Bees, No Pollination, No Honey

The importance of routinely screening all of your hives.

Two major fatal bacterial diseases of honey bee brood in Australia are American foulbrood (AFB) disease - Paenibacillus larvae and European foulbrood (EFB) disease - Melisococcus plutonius.

These bacterial diseases can be easily missed by visual inspection in the early stages. Therefore, testing of bees and honey is critical in the successful management of hives. Spores from American foulbrood disease can remain viable for more than 50 years in the environment, and as such, disease can strike at any time.

Gribbles Veterinary Pathology offers testing to diagnose and confirm the presence or absence of these bacterial diseases.

Our testing is specifically designed to detect AFB disease in honey samples, as well as both AFB and EFB disease in larvae. Every hive should be tested twice a year prior to the pollination stage.

If AFB and EFB spores are present in the honey, even at low levels, this can be detected by scientists in the laboratory. Results provided from the lab will indicate a +1, +2 or +3 result if positive. A higher concentration of spores may indicate a higher likelihood of American foulbrood disease being present, or that the apiary has a recent
history of the disease.

Smears of dead and sick larvae can be submitted to confirm the presence AFB and/or EFB and Paenibacillus alvei (a secondary invader associated with European foulbrood disease). These smears will be prepared and reviewed by a scientist in the laboratory who will thoroughly examine the smears for the distinctive organisms and report if they have been detected or not. Thus testing for AFB and EFB can protect apiarists’ hives and pollination for the future.