Winterization, Part 3 of 6
How to Identify American Foul Brood?
Great Website: https://afb.org.nz/recognising-afb/
Beehive Scent: AFB, in its many stages of effect on the hives populations, will give the beehive the scent of rotting flesh. You are not able to identify AFB by looking at adult bees. The spores are carried by the bees, but only vegetate on the larval stages of bees causing the larva to completely decompose within the cell and settle in a gooey mass at the bottom part of the cell.
Holes in the Capped Cells: Have a look at your brood cells and see if there are punctures or the cappings look sunken in. The holes are created by the adult bees looking in to see what is happening to the larva below. And, with seeing the infected cell below, the adult bee will, earlier on in the infection, chew the capping off and clean the cell by ingesting the infected slurry of the dead larva and ‘vomiting’ it out once it leaves the hive. This is how the disease is transported to other bees, by the bees later sharing nectar from one another contaminated with the bacteria and eventually fed to the larva. In the later stages of the effects of AFB the bees will leave the infected cells capped after finding the dead larva because their numbers are too weak to clean out the cells.
Rope Test: European Foul Brood and American Foul Brood are very similar in that they are both spore forming bacterias and they effect the bees the same and smell the same. EFB, though, is a less invasive bacteria and rarely results in the need to burn the hive. How you tell the difference between the two is to do the rope test. The rope test is very easily done. If the hive is infected with AFB you will be able to tell by using a tooth pick or pin by inserting it in to a diseased cell. When you pull the slurry out with the pin or toothpick, you will see the substance stretch out like glue. This is proof that you have AFB. If you have all of the symptoms of Foul brood, but fail the rope test, it is likely that your hive in infected with EFB.
If you have identified AFB within your hive, it is recommended that you contact the Medhat Nasr, and he will send an inspector to come out and have a look at your hive. He will be able to take samples from the hive to identify the AFB as antibiotic resistant or not. He will then offer you advice to what chemical treatments and or doses you can use or he will recommend the burning of the beehive itself. It is very important that you review the chemicals recommended because many of these chemicals will have long term residual effects on your colony for years to come as well as some products rumoured to being recommended for the treatment of AFB through this past season are not approved for commercial use within a beehive or tested for that use. I guess the key to all of this is to always do what you feel is right, do your research, make some phone calls, and do what makes you feel like its the right decision. You are beekeeper, and therefore will always be a student to the field!
It is my opinion that foul brood cells are residual in all colonies, and that it flares up within a beehive under duress. Therefore, the best preventative measure you can make is to observe the health of your colony throughout the year and be sensitive to early signs of beehive stress; hive behaviour during inspections, chalk brood fluctuations, varroa mite concentrations. Take these factors in to consideration with the weather, nectar flow, time of the year, and previous actions taken with the hive. For example, if you have a hive showing signs of chalk brood, but it is in late May, which was particularly wet (increasing the stress and outbreaks of chalk brood within colonies in general) but you decide to go through your plan to split the colony due to personal goals. It is likely that your splits will have a weak build up and the quantities of chalk brood in the queened colony will increase, as well as the susceptibility to other diseases and viruses. The ideal way to approach all decisions which will impact the colony such as splitting is to consider the beehive as a living single organism. If the immune system of the colony has signs of being low, it is important to not take actions which will put the colony at risk of becoming very ill.