Sunday, 8 June 2014

European Foul Brood, (EFB, a notifiable disease)

Within the last week a case of EFB has been discovered in the Grantham area and so I thought now would be a good time to do a short and concise post on this disease , not just for those of us who are new beekeepers in this area but also as a reminder for the older beekeepers and as an ease of access reference point to all other beekeepers too.

I know many of us have recently attended a bee health day and the course in Grantham has not long finished but I think it is always good to have a refresher at your finger tips!!

So what if EFB?

European foulbrood (EFB) is a serious, bacterial disease of honeybee brood found throughout the world. It appears to be increasing.

How do I identify EFB?

EFB is easiest to spot in early spring and summer, but the pathogen may have been lurking for a long time. EFB infection can involve many organisms, so the symptoms vary and diagnosis is not always straightforward.

Bee larvae infected with EFB appear twisted in their cells, sometimes forming an unnatural C-shape along the sides or in the bottoms of the cells. The tracheal system tends to stand out and appear silvery, and the gut is sometimes visible through the opaque body tissue.
The infected larvae turn yellow and then brown eventually drying to rubbery scales within the cells. Unlike AFB, the cadaver cannot be “roped out” with a matchstick and it is not glue-like as in AFB. These drier EFB scales can be more easily removed by the worker bees and so EFB can be very difficult to spot.
In severe infections the colony has a foul, rotten odour (hence the name ‘foulbrood’) but this is only one possible symptom of the disease.


Typical visual stages of EFB
Typical visual stages of EFB



So how did I get EFB?

The main cause of an EFB infection is Melissococcus plutonius, but several bacterial organisms can be involved.
As with other diseases, EFB infections are often linked to stress brought on by a lack of food, water, space or attack by another disease or pest. However queen genetics, weather and geography may also play a part.
EFB infection tends to be localised and often recurs in the same apiaries year after year. But it can also spread quite easily.
Very young larvae are particularly susceptible and become infected through brood food contaminated with M. plutonius. The bacteria multiply rapidly in the larval mid-gut reaching such enormous numbers that the bacteria compete with the bee for food supply. The larvae then starve – usually about the time of cell capping.

To be honest a lot of this went over my head although I am sure many people out there will be more knowledgeable on the subject.

The fact is that FFB is around. Not to worry too much though, the National Bee Inspector would be more than happy to give you any help/advice if you have any concerns about your hives and would be much happier to come out and have a look if you are unsure if you have a problem that for you to leave it until really drastic measures have to be taken.

Andy Wattam would also like us all to know that if we do get a case of EFB that we would not be looked upon badly, these things do happen and the Inspection unit is only there to help.

You can find contact details for Andy here on Bee Base along with a full list of all other bee inspectors local to your area and also plenty of other information which will help you on your journey as a beekeeper.

Is there any treatment for EFB?

There is no known effective cure for EFB, but good beekeeping practice and vigilance can reduce the risks.

M. plutonius may be very widespread and present in many colonies but goes unnoticed until obvious symptoms of EFB are triggered by other stresses on the colony.

Even though M. plutonius is not a spore-forming bacillus, some bacteria may survive on combs to re-infect at a later date.

A “shook swarm” method is recommended by the National Bee Unit of the UK. This involves shaking the adult bees from an infected comb into a new or sterilised hive with fresh foundation. Using this method, the recurrence of EFB is very much reduced.

Diagnostic kits can be bought and used for identifying diseases and you can find out more about these and how they can be used and there effectiveness at Vita a great site that  researches, develops, manufactures and markets a range of honeybee health treatments and products worldwide.

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keep it clean...keep it relevant...I look forward to reading your comments!!