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