Iowa Honey Producers Association

The Buzz Newsletter

January 2006

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The Old Man is taking
a Siesta. He asked me to write an article this month.
By Gordon Powell

I figure the best thing I can write about is disease, or better yet how to identify and clean up disease, not just treat to prevent disease.

I recently got the shock of my bee keeping years, when I found five hives out of eight with a severe case of American Foul Brood. I am sure that one of the hives found the disease and that I didn’t find it when I added supers in early June. The disease weakens this hive to the point that the other hives robbed them of their honey and killed the bees. This is how the disease was spread to the other four hives.

Photo 1


I found the disease when I went to get bees ready for the fair. It was obvious that I had a large clean up job ahead of me. First I confirmed that it was American Foul Brood using the rope test, as shown in the photo below. My nose had already told me that it was American foul brood. The dead decaying brood whether it is a few cells or a whole frame gives off a very foul odor. Once you know the odor it is not hard to recognize American foul brood whenever you encounter it again. Here are two pictures showing the foul brood (Photo 1) and how to test using a small twig or toothpick (Photo 2). You will notice that the dead larvae sticks to the twig and stretches out from the cell. You will notice the small holes in the capping where the live bees have opened the cells to see why the bees haven’t hatched.

Photo 2

To clean up disease from the equipment that is as severe as this requires quick action and positive results. I brought in the dead hive and immediately placed the wooden frames with beeswax foundation in a better way wax melter and turned the thermostat to 275 degrees and let it run for 3 hours after reaching that temperature. This prevents the spread of the disease by sterilizing the frames and killing the bacillius larvae that is found in the spores in the comb that causes American Foulbrood. This melted all of the wax from the comb, which I caught in a clean pan. I then took the wooden frames with the hot dry casing left from the brood and placed the casing in a cardboard box, which I placed in a closed garbage can until I was able to dispose of it properly. The disease only effects the young bees as they are going into metamorphous to change from a worm into an insect. The spores have to be in the food, honey; that they eat. After sterilizing the frames in the melter, I rewired and installed new foundation. I then scorched the inside of the hive body and bottom board with a propane torch to kill any spores. I placed one frame of drawn comb from clean bees and a division feeder in a deep hive body with five newly sterilized wooden frames with new foundation. I fixed two hive bodies this way and took them out to the bee yard. I opened the next hive that had the disease American Foulbrood and set the brood nest off on an old hive body. I then place one of the clean hive bodies where the old hive body had been on a freshly cleaned bottom board. I then filled the feeder with fructose corn syrup. I then took a frame from the disease hive body and after looking for the queen shook the bees off in front of the hive.

Photo 3


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