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Learners will be able to identify AFB’s clinical signs and employ early detection methods


Key Takeaways 


  1. American Foulbrood (AFB) is a highly contagious bacterial disease affecting honey bee colonies. Its resilient spores, ability to kill healthy hives independently, and easy transmission make it a formidable threat.

  2. Recognizing AFB’s clinical signs, such as spotty brood patterns, sunken cell cappings, and distinct odors, is crucial for early detection. Vigilant inspections and diagnostic tests aid in identifying AFB.

  3. If AFB is detected, immediate steps are essential. Infected bees and equipment should be destroyed to prevent further spread. Preventive measures include strong colony maintenance, adhering to biosecurity protocols, and favoring disease-resistant bee genetics.

American Foulbrood (AFB) is one of the most severe bacterial diseases affecting honey bee populations. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of AFB, its devastating impact, early detection methods, and the necessary actions to safeguard our precious bee colonies.

Understanding American Foulbrood (AFB)


AFB is a highly contagious disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium. The factors that make AFB particularly challenging to manage include:

  • Resilient Spores: AFB spores are remarkably sturdy, with the ability to endure diverse environmental conditions for decades. This resilience makes eradicating infections an uphill battle.

  • Devastating Effect: AFB doesn’t require additional stressors to wreak havoc on a healthy hive. Infected colonies rarely recover naturally, and timely intervention is critical to preventing their demise.

  • Easy Spread: AFB easily spreads within an apiary and between operations. Robbing, infected equipment interchange, and consumption of contaminated honey and pollen contribute to its swift transmission.


Recognizing Clinical Signs

The progression of AFB showcases various clinical signs within the brood nest:

  • Spotty Brood Pattern: Initially, only a few larvae might be infected, leading to an uneven brood pattern, also known as a “shotgun” pattern. 

  • Cell Cappings: Infected larvae lead to sunken and perforated cell cappings. The larvae take on a brown gooey appearance, adhering to the cell wall.

  • Distinct Odor: In advanced stages, a putrid fish-like odor may emanate from the brood nest.


Early Detection is Key

Detecting AFB requires vigilant inspections of the brood nest. Adequate lighting, preferably natural sunlight, aids accurate diagnosis. Lab-based identification includes microscopic analysis, cultures, or molecular techniques. Field methods such as commercial diagnostic kits, match stick tests, and milk tests are commonly employed.


Taking Swift Action

If AFB is identified, immediate action is imperative. Here’s what to do:

  • Disposal of Infected Bees and Equipment: The most ethical and effective course of action is to destroy all infected bees and equipment through controlled measures. Burning contaminated equipment minimizes the risk of disease transmission.

  • Biosecurity Protocols: Follow stringent biosecurity measures to prevent the further spread of AFB within and across colonies.


The battle against American Foulbrood demands vigilance and dedication. By identifying AFB early and adhering to effective management strategies, we can ensure the health and vitality of our honey bee colonies. In the face of this devastating disease, let us unite to protect these vital pollinators and our ecosystem as a whole.

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Guide for Sampling for American Foulbrood

American Foulbrood (AFB) is one of the most severe bacterial diseases affecting honey bee populations. In this guide, you will learn the step-by-step guide to sampling for AFB. needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at anytime. This agreement isn’t a condition of any purchase. See our privacy policy for terms and conditions and to learn how we protect your data.