Category Archives: Disease

Diseases of Bees – an Overview

Spring is a delicate time for bees – they are poised for action and if the weather allows they will build up so fast they will outpace many of the diseases that might otherwise grind them down such as Acarine.

Stress and prolonged periods of foul weather can allow some of these diseases such as Nosema or Dysentery to thrive.
Other pests such as Varroa make their presence felt later in the year and of course you can’t treat them while you have honey on board.

Brood diseases won’t be noticed until there is brood so they are always a concern for summer inspections but not to be forgotten in the winter. In fact, if you bring in dead hives in autumn or spring always be on the look out for AFB eg patches of dead brood with sunken cappings and if in doubt – burn.

Bee diseases can be immediately split into two broad categories:

  1. Diseases of adult bees;
  2. Diseases of bee brood.

Diseases of adult bees which can arise in this country are as follows – click for information sheet:

Diseases of brood which can arise in this country:

Click here for Shook Swarming and Disease Control

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Acarine Disease

Signs and Symptons

Acarine disease is something to look for in the spring when colonies may fail to build up properly. Look out for large numbers of crawling bees on the ground and/or a pile of dead bees beneath the entrance – these are signs of chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV) which is often present when the bees have Acarine. They may also have ‘K wings’. This is where the bees hold their fore-wings at strange angles so they look like a letter K. The bee has has four wings, two on each side; they are zipped together for flight and unzipped but folded together in a relaxed sort of way otherwise. With K wings it’s as if the wings are broken and the fore-wings are held out at right angles. Continue reading Acarine Disease

American Foulbrood (AFB)

American Foul Brood is the disease that really gives beekeepers the willies. Once you’ve had it you never forget it; perhaps because there’s no remedy and the only thing to be done is to consign the  bees and their hive to the flames like a Viking funeral. It’s all drama but it’s not the worst thing in the world and winter is the time to learn a bit about it, then when you come across the symptoms in the summer perhaps a little light bulb will go on in your head. The sooner you find it the better – because then you can act and prevent its spread. Continue reading American Foulbrood (AFB)

Less Serious Brood Diseases

The diseases of honey bee brood are many and varied but they’re all a bit dark and creepy – like Roald Dahl’s child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The two most serious brood diseases are American Foul Brood and European Foul Brood and these strike fear in heart of all beekeepers but we’ll deal with them later.

Here is a table of the less serious brood diseases. Click it for a bigger picture. Continue reading Less Serious Brood Diseases

Mid-winter Varroa Treatment – December 2013

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Trickle treated 35 hives of bees with oxalic acid for Varroa today at 4 apiary sites. The temperature was 6 degrees, windy and beginning to rain. It took from 1.15pm to 4.15pm including travelling time so it has to be said it is the quicker of the two methods. If we had only the one Varrox Vaporiser it would have taken 10 minute per hive – which is nearly 6 hours and without the travelling time. Continue reading Mid-winter Varroa Treatment – December 2013

Varroa – the Basics

The Varroa mite is a parasite of the honeybee. Being a mite it is not an insect; it has eight legs and is a member of the spider family. As parasites go, Varroa mites are quite large in comparison to the host – about the size of a pin head and quite easily visible to the naked eye. If humans had a parasite the same relative size of Varroa it would be about the size of a saucer. The mites have a reddish brown, leathery shell and from above they look a bit like a crab but without the pincers. Continue reading Varroa – the Basics

Winter Oxalic Acid Varroa Treatment

When the shortest day is upon us there is a brief broodless period in the honeybee colony. This is the time conditions are right for oxalic acid treatment. There are two reasons for this:

  1. When a colony is broodless, all the Varroa are at their most vulnerable out there in the open, either on the bees or creeping about on the comb – Varroa are protected from the effects of oxalic acid when they still inside the cells of the brood nest;
  2. Oxalic acid can damage open brood so these effects are minimal when there are no or few larvae.

On December 9th 2013 the bees were flying quite strongly and still working the last of the ivy and the Mahonia but there has been little activity since then. Any eggs laid during that spell of mild weather will have hatched by the end of December so that might be the best time to treat.

The following methods can be used during any broodless period, even in the middle of summer, but supers need to be removed. Click here for more about summer oxalic acid treatment. Continue reading Winter Oxalic Acid Varroa Treatment

Weather Warming Warning

The bees were very active over the weekend in the unseasonably mild weather. It is nice to see them so busy on the Mahonia and the late ivy, which is still in bloom here, but it is possible that it could scupper our hopes of a successful midwinter mite-cull. The bees will be bringing in nectar and little packets of fresh pollen which could get the queen laying. Should this occur then sealed midwinter brood would act as a refuge for Varroa and when we come along with our oxalic acid in a couple of weeks time they will be safely tucked away and the effects of the treatment will be minimal. Continue reading Weather Warming Warning