Bees on FIRE!!
American Foulbrood! The worst nightmare of a beekeeper to say the least.
Recently I had the unfortunate opportunity to witness the examination of a honeybee hive with active American Foulbrood spores. I was surprised at the smell of the disease. I felt the odor resembled something decaying while another beekeeper said it reminded him of dirty gym socks! Either way, it was a distinct smell and one that I will not forget.
There is no cure for American Foulbrood…one can contain the growth of the spores with antibiotic treatment but that avenue will be forever more in that hive. The course of cure for this hive on that day was burning the entire hive and its occupants. Spores cannot survive the high heat and this course of action is the only way to stop American Foulbrood from being spread to nearby hives by other bees. Click to watch the bees on fire video
When the hive was being examined, the inspector immediately noticed the odor and alerted us to the possible find of AFB. Further investigation of the frames showed infected larva, holes in capped larva and roping of dead larva. Roping is when a small instrument is used to swirl the dead larva and pull back making the contents of the rope out while remaining attached to the instrument. We used a small twig to check the cells and when AFB was detected, the twig was placed in the hive to be destroyed later. We had to be extremely careful not to spread spores!
The honeybees were killed with 2 buckets of soapy water at 5am in the morning while the entire hive was still clustered. We waited 2 hours and then put all the contents of the hive – bees, frames, inner cover and bottom board into a metal barrel and started all on fire.
Even the gloves I wore on the day of discovery were burnt. The smallest amount of spore can infect hundreds of colonies! I had to be super careful on cleaning my bee suit and hive tool so I wouldn’t contaminate anything! Scrubbing the hive tool with steel wool and alcohol and then scorching with flame did the trick for the hive tool and heavy duty laundry soap and extra rinse for the suit! I couldn’t be more careful!
It was a sad day to see that hive destroyed but I knew that other bees would live spore-free now. American Foul Brood had one less hold in the bee world. Nothing was spread that day! Fire Dept. on handWe had two folks from the Fire Department on hand as there was quite a bit of flame. We had the metal barrel on wet grass and kept the area free of anything flammable. It took a bit of time to incinerate all of the contaminated equipment but I felt that no bees will be affected from this hive