A Fera Bee Inspection

We had our first visit from a FERA bee inspector yesterday.

There has been a recent case of American Foulbrood in the area. American foulbrood (AFB), is a highly infectious and destructive bee disease caused by the spore- forming Paenibacillus larvae ssp. larvae. It is widespread and a huge problem in America, but thankfully fairly rare here in the UK.

The disease attacks the sealed brood and symptoms include a patchy (pepperpot) brood pattern. Affected larvae die and decompose to a foul smelling fluid which can be drawn out from the cell as a stringy residue. They then dry out to a hard scale which remains in the cell. Cell cappings look sunken and greasy and in the early stages perforated cell cappings can be an indicator of the disease as the bees try to manage it themselves.

AFB is a notifiable disease here though so if you discover it you have a legal obligation to inform the authorities who will then visit your apiary to confirm its presence. It is highly infectious and spores can contaminate equipment for up to 60 years so colonies in which AFB is confirmed are destroyed and all equipment burnt.

A beekeeper in Tywyn discovered AFB in one of his colonies last week and immediately informed the FERA Bee Inspector. The beekeeper said:

It was just a normal weekly inspection on a Langstroth, the hive had swarmed 6 weeks ago and I was checking for brood off the new Queen. I knew something was amiss when I opened the hive, took out the first frame and saw the signs of dark cells which were peppered around the frame. I checked them and found the AFB. It was a healthy strong hive, the apiary had been going since 2002 with no problems, nothing had been moved in this season, so the source is a bit of a mystery. I declared the find at 2.30 pm and inspector met me at 4.15 pm and destroyed the hive at 7.30pm.

Other hives in the area seem OK so far, but there was an immediate shutdown for 5km around his hive and the bee inspectors are checking stocks that they have on bee base. There is of course a possibility that someone else is infected and hasn’t declared it.

We aren’t within the 5km radius of the AFB case and we do have the natural barrier of the Dovey Estuary too, but the bee inspector thought it would be prudent to check our bees as well, so he gave us a ring on Sunday and turned up yesterday. We were quite looking forward to the visit really as we hadn’t been inspected before and we thought it would be a good opportunity to meet the local inspector and to hopefully get a clean bill of health following a check from an experienced eye.

He arrived fully kitted up, cleaned his hive tool, got his smoker going and started inspecting our hives. He was very nice, polite and respectful of our bees and didn’t seem to mind in the slightest that the three of us, including Morgan wanted to watch him do the inspection. We were fairly confident that we didn’t have AFB and that all was well with our bees, and that was indeed the case. He did manage to spot the queen in Clettwr that we had yet to see, so that was good.

He seemed quite impressed with our garden and apiary in general and it was reassuring that everything we had been doing and have planned to do with the bees were exactly what he recommended at the time. We thought that the colony in our ‘Leri’ hive was now quite strong and looking good ready for going into winter. We had done a recent varroa mite count and were planning on treating them this week before trying to feed them up as much as possible with sugar syrup. The colony had lots of bees and loads of brood, but not huge amounts of stores so we wanted to treat them for varroa and then get them to top their stores up as much as possible. We only have our own bees and limited experience to compare against though so it was good to get the inspectors opinion on the colony and he thought that they were looking strong too.

He wasn’t here for long and was soon on his way having given us the all clear. It was good news all around. It would of course have been devastating if everything had to be destroyed but it s good to see that FERA are on top of these things and checking hives vigilantly as soon as there is a case of AFB. The last thing we want is for the disease to start spreading and get a hold and we certainly don’t want to be responsible for spreading it so having a check from an expert has helped put our minds at ease. If you have colonies in the area then make sure you check for AFB and make sure you have them registered on Bee Base so that FERA know of their existence.

All is well with our bees, we are now about to extract a few frames of honey from one hive, treat them for varroa and then feed them like crazy ready for the winter.

3 Responses

  1. Emily says:

    Great that you got the all-clear! It’s always fascinating watching a bee inspector at work.

  2. mum and dad says:

    We were very concerned for you all ( even though you all seemed relaxed about it)as you have all worked so hard,so we’re glad that all was well

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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