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Foulbrood Disease of Honey Bees

Introduction
The National Bee Unit (NBU) is charged with controlling the notifiable brood diseases American and European Foulbrood (AFB and EFB). Despite their names, both diseases are present in the UK and both can lead to the death of infected colonies. Both Foulbroods are statutory notifiable diseases and therefore, beekeepers are legally obligated to report any suspected diseased colonies under the Bee Diseases and Pests Control Order 2006 (as amended).

AFB is caused by a spore forming bacterium called Paenibacillus larvae. These spores are the infective stage of the disease and infection begins when food contaminated with spores are fed to larvae by the nurse bees. Once in the gut of the larva the spores germinate, bacteria move into the larval tissues, where they multiply enormously. Infected larvae normally die after the cell is sealed and millions of infective spores form in the larval remains. P. larvae spores remain viable for many years and are very resistant to extremes of hot and cold and to many disinfectants.

EFB is caused by the bacterium Melissococcus plutonius. Larvae become infected by consuming contaminated food fed by the nurse bees. The bacteria multiply within the larval gut, competing with it for food. They remain in the gut and do not invade larval tissue; larvae that die from the disease do so because they have been starved of food. This normally occurs shortly before the cells are capped.

If you suspect that you have Foulbrood, you must contact us or your local Inspector.

Further Information

Last updated on 21/08/18