The Nationwide Effort to Eliminate American Foulbrood Disease

A beekeeper does far more than just produce honey. They also have a responsibility to protect their hives and ensure they’re healthy and safe from diseases such as American Foulbrood disease (AFB) – which affects the honeybee larvae and pupae and is prevalent worldwide.

In New Zealand AFB it is the most serious honeybee disease beekeepers need to manage. 

AFB is caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae and exists in two forms (the spore form and the vegetative form), both of which are microscopic in size. These spores can survive outside a honeybee colony for over 35 years and can withstand very high temperatures, including boiling water.

When a hive becomes infected, in most cases, it is because a beekeeper has cross-contaminated it with honeybees, honey or equipment from another hive with the disease. 

New Zealand is the only country that doesn’t use antibiotics to fight AFB (it is illegal under New Zealand law) and so to prevent the spread of disease beekeepers have several legal obligations under the Biosecurity Act 1993 including:

  • Being registered as a beekeeper and registering their apiary sites
  • Not feeding drugs or substances that mask, obscure or conceal the symptoms of AFB
  • Sterilising beekeeping equipment using approved methods

Where a case of AFB is found, the hives owner must report to the Management Agency and destroy equipment and bees associated with a case of AFB within seven days.

Identifying AFB requires both experience and regular refresher courses, in addition to laboratory testing when required.

Although it is a major challenge for New Zealand, the beekeeping industry is confident AFB can be eliminated nationwide because:

  1. NZ has a relatively small population of honeybee colonies
  2. There is currently a low incidence of the disease, and
  3. MPI carefully controls the import of honeybee colonies and products that can carry AFB.

Here at Mountain Valley Honey we are committed to doing our part in eliminating this disease. From the moment our beekeepers open the beehive and pull out the first frame, they are assessing the hive to ensure the Queen is happy and there is no disease. 

We love our bees and do everything we can to ensure they are safe and happy.

To find out more about AFB, go to https://afb.org.nz/

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