Green Lizard's Blog

The planet is our home; we need to be more responsible. Here's what I do.

European Foul Brood: How we coped with a bee crisis


This is a scary post. As relatively new bee keepers we’ve dealt with something quite nasty this month.

Two weeks ago we opened our fourth hive and encountered an unusual foul smell.

After a couple of phone calls it became clear we were dealing with a very serious problem.

There are a couple of terrible diseases that terrorise bee hives and beekeepers.

A foul smell can be a significant clue to the problem.

The first thing we had to do in the devastation was establish what type of disease it was.

Foul brood is a disease which manifests with strange positioned larvae which turn to mush before they are supposed to be hatched. There are two kinds.

The American type, which is more serious, is identified by the way the mush forms long threads from a toothpick.

If this occurred in a hive it needs to be declared to the authorities. Hive material needs to be destroyed. And care needs to be taken to prevent spread of the disease.

Thankfully our hive problem, whilst serious, is a less damaging disease.

No threads formed from the destroyed larvae.

Thankfully the disease only affects the larvae. Any bees that hatch successfully are healthy.

We took action.

We replaced the entrance unit and brood box. We removed all the existing frames and knocked all the bees into the new box which stood in the old hives position. We gave them new frames with new foundation wax. The old frames can be stripped of wax and sterilised with a blowtorch before further use.

Then we gave them food.

It seems that European Foul Brood can occur if the bees are weakened, for example, by a reduced food supply and extended inclement weather.

This year, we’ve had an early spring and food was abundant but in recent weeks the early blossom has also finished early and torrential rain has dogged the colonies for two weeks.

August would normally see a gradual reduction in nourishment but it would appear that this year it’s been harder, sudden and more final.

We gave the bees two kilograms of fondant in a spacer on top of the brood box.

Nine Days later

We’ve been monitoring behaviour at the hive and it’s time to check how they’re doing.

They’ve managed to bring pollen in since we took action.


The hive shows good signs of recovery. But it’s early days. This disease would normally occur during a poor spring. This would enable the hive to recover over summer with better natural food supplies. There would be time for them to gain strength and prepare for winter.

This year, the lateness of the occurrence is a further challenge. It will be hard for the colony to gain strength in numbers to be large enough to survive the winter.

Hopefully the weather will be kinder for a few weeks now. But we will need to watch them very carefully.

Since our hive was affected we have heard of at least two other hives affected by European Foul Brood.

It’s also worrying because the bee decline of the last two years has been very negative for bee populations. The initially positive flower abundance this year signalled potential improvement. But now it’s hard to know how the bees will fare.


21 comments on “European Foul Brood: How we coped with a bee crisis

  1. Serena
    September 6, 2014

    Thank you for sharing! This is very interesting! I love bees, we put a lot of plants and flowers especially for them. I love to watch them enjoy all the flowers!


  2. cheergerm
    September 6, 2014

    Fingers crossed for your precious bees. The bee decline of such concern.


  3. circusgardener
    September 6, 2014

    Very sorry to hear about this. Let’s hope your early detection and prompt action, together with some help from the weather, will allow the hive to survive.


  4. lindaswildlifegarden
    September 6, 2014

    Reblogged this on Linda's wildlife garden and commented:
    awesome and thank you for sharing have a blessed evening


  5. ilovemyplot
    September 6, 2014

    That makes me so sad – I hope the hive will survive and become stronger. Really makes you think about the planet and being aware that its not just humans who get sick, starve, loose homes through floods or drought. We needs bees.


    • lizard100
      September 6, 2014

      Thank you for this very thoughtful comment. It’s suggested that after this disease colonies can become much stronger. We can hope!


  6. Expat Eye
    September 6, 2014

    Hope it all works out!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mylatinnotebook
    September 8, 2014

    So sorry to hear this! It must be terribly upsetting. Did you get any advanced warning from your local or national association that EFB was in your area? This is what happens here, usually followed up by an email to expect an inspection of your site soon…


    • lizard100
      September 8, 2014

      No. We did subsequently hear that there were other cases but it was a big Nasty surprise. Still the bees are already recovering and looking very strong.


  8. Rambling Woods
    September 8, 2014

    Oh my…. I hope they will now do well

    Liked by 1 person

  9. litadoolan
    September 21, 2014

    So glad this has a happy ending! I have seen bee colonies on TV and they seem like fascinating creatures. I bet the honey is delicious ! Is it easy to tell the Queen bee?

    Here’s to your healthy bees.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lizard100
      September 21, 2014

      The queen can be easy to spot. Her abdomen is noticeably larger. She gets bigger over time too. The colony is doing far better now. Thankfully this horrible disease doesn’t affect the bees beyond larval stage. If they survive without being affected they are fine.


  10. Kim in Fiji
    September 26, 2014

    It’s magnificent that you did your routine maintenance checks and caught this early. Best of luck in having no further problems with these sweet small pets.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Di Drinkwater
    September 29, 2014

    Hope the bees continue to do well.


  12. Pingback: Preparing the hive for the Winter | Green Lizard's Blog

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This entry was posted on September 6, 2014 by in beekeeping and tagged , , .

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