Thursday, December 10, 2009

Burning Bee Hives

Beekeepers must control the spread of diseases that affect honey bee colonies. American foulbrood is a bacterial disease of honey bees which can be easily spread among bee hives with devastating results. American foulbrood, a worldwide disease, is one of the spore-forming honey bee diseases, as are Nosema and chalkbrood. The reproductive spores of American foulbrood may remain dormant for years in the frames and hive bodies of used bee hive equipment. One of the easiest ways of bringing American foulbrood into the bee yard is by introducing hives from other bee yards, from other beekeepers, or from storage. American foulbrood exists in two states, a vegetative state and a spore-forming reproductive state. Antibiotic treatments can suppress the vegetative state, but the drugs do not destroy the highly durable reproductive spores, which can even resist high temperatures. In the past, antibiotics, such as Terramycin, were used in the bee hive as a preventative treatment for American foulbrood and other diseases. Strains of American foulbrood resistant to the antibiotics evolved from continued use. Resistance almost always follows continued use of medicinal treatments. Many consider the only effective method of destroying American foulbrood is by burning the affected hive including the bees and hive equipment.

Peace Bee Farm purchased some colonies of bees from a retiring beekeeper. In order to prevent bringing in spores of honey bee diseases as well as chemical contaminants, we burned the old equipment after moving the bees to new hives. The transition of the bees was accomplished by stacking new hive bodies and frames above the old hive bodies. Honey bee colonies tend to move upward in the hive into new equipment. The photo shows some of the frames being burned. American foulbrood exists in small numbers of bee yards. Its spread is checked by beekeepers carefully avoiding using old equipment. Wax moths also help prevent the spread of American foulbrood by consuming the nests of feral honey bee colonies after the bee colony dies.

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