Brood Disease Recognition Workshops

The priorities of the Regional Bee inspectors (RBI) have recently changed from routine inspection to education. The RBI and their seasonal deputies (SBI) will always be available to inspect when an outbreak of notifiable disease is reported but routine inspections will be reduced and the education workshops they offer will increase. If a workshop is offered they are really worthwhile attending. If a serious disease is present wouldn't you rather know about it before it spreads to your other hives and those of your neighbours?

Brood disease is covered in the regularly updated illustrated booklet from the NBU which is downloadable from their website:

https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/downloadDocument.cfm?id=7

However, there is a real advantage in going though the practicalities with combs in front of you. Messages that I got from a recent session in addition to the documentation were:

  • AFB is very rare and actually fairly slow to spread. AFB does persist on equipment but an EFB outbreak is harder to control.
  • Beekeepers are by far the most frequent spreaders of infection. Practices such as evening colony strength by moving brood frames around are very much discouraged because of the potential to spread infection.
  • Undisturbed feral colonies are a relatively low risk source of infection. They either die out quickly or frequent swarming and some resistance allows them to survive with tolerable levels of varroa and other infection. Either way, in practice disease is less likely to spread than from an actively managed colony.
  • Any beekeeper should carry tweezers and be prepared to pull out suspect brood for a closer look. Disinfect the tweezers with washing soda after use along with your hive tool.

Based on a recent event hosted by Barnet Beekeepers the schedule runs over a day and is run by the RBI assisted by an SBI.

  • Start with introductions in a lecture setting. The entire session is illustrated with numerous photos, most available on the NBU website. Incidentally, it was made clear the illustrations on their web site are free to use for educational purposes provided they carry attribution.
  • A quiz based on the brood photos. A chance to find out how little you know when the answers are shown later.
  • Observing the colony, the starting position.
  • Foulbrood symptoms and other brood diseases you might see.
  • Hygeine precautions around the apiary.

Then a practical session

Comb Examination

  • Comb examination, a chance to see real AFB and EFB on the comb plus a few other disease examples. Note the gloves and aprons; diseased combs are only brought out in a closed room away from live colonies.
  • Demonstration of using a lateral flow device to confirm a specific infection. A positive result is enough for inspectors to act, lab confirmation is no longer required.

Back to lecture format:

  • EFB control, how the inspectors work after disease confirmation.
  • Inspecting a colony, a reminder of best practice.
  • Summary and quiz answers. Mark them yourself and make notes, we're here to learn not compete.

Then lunch break and a practical session with the inspectors at an association apiary.

RBI at work

More photos available in the gallery