American Foulbrood (AFB)

*This is a notifiable disease

The DPI provide a honey culture testing service to see if your hives are carrying AFB disease. This will be sent to you when you register your hives, and you are advised to have this done on an annual basis.

A series of 9 videos explains and demonstrates diseases in bees. A video from this series (The Ag. Dept. Govt of NSW) has provided the information for this article. For full information please go to the following site:

Video Series Honey Bee Diseases

When examining the brood box for AFB, look for concave brood cells that are discoloured (chocolate brown and sunken), a bit greasy, some with dead brood, and chewed cappings.

A rope test can be carried out in the early stages of the disease by inserting a match into a capped cell and drawing out a rope of slime. In advanced cases, the cells are full of scale when you look down at the cells from the top frame.

Advanced stage there is an odour coming from the frames.

Management Strategy for AFB

  • Inspect hives in spring, summer and autumn and look in the brood box for symptoms.
  • Bees may rob a weak hive either yours or somewhere else and then your bees will bring back the disease to your hive
  • Don’t move components from hive to hive unless you are sure none of your hives has a disease.
  • Barrier system where the equipment for each apiary stays in that apiary
  • Feeding back honey or pollen is high risk for spreading disease.
  • Invariably it’s the strong hives that get AFB not the weaker ones.
  • very small risk in introducing AFB by re queening

In the end the colony must be destroyed and the hive equipment will need irradiating to get rid of the spores that last for many many years. Unfortunately the bees will need to be killed otherwise they will spread the disease.

This is a notifiable disease. So call your local apiary inspector to see what to do next if you suspect you have it. Go to Submitting specimens to the laboratory | Vetsource | Animal diseases | Biosecurity | Agriculture Victoria for details.