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Major disease threat to South Africa’s honey bees



September 21, 2015

Bees on Angelica flowers. Image gardendrum.comA major threat to South Africa’s honey bees is emerging as American Foulbrood disease (AFB) sweeps through bee populations in the Western Cape.

The South African Bee Industry Organisation estimates that around one third of the Western Cape’s bees are now infected with AFB, posing a big problem for pollination during the current spring season and the potential for it to spread north into other major fruit-growing areas as hives are moved around. AFB was first found in South Africa in 2008.

The disease infects young bee larvae under 3 days old, colonising their bodies. Spores are spread as adult bees try to contain the disease and can live for decades, including in honey products, although AFB is not harmful to humans, only bees. The disease can be treated with antibiotics but some strains of AFB are already developing resistance.

Although South Africa’s beekeepers must be registered, it’s estimated that only about 40% of the area’s 1000 beekeepers are registered, and AFB is yet to be made a notifiable disease as it is in most other countries, including Australia. AFB infected hives need to be destroyed, burned in a hot fire and the ashes buried at least 30cm deep to contain the disease.

Read more about identifying and managing American Foulbrood disease HERE

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