AFB - Treatment

American foulbrood is such a horrible disease and I’ve unfortunately come across it too many times.

In Australia, by law, the colony must be euthanised and equipment buried after being destroyed/burnt, or treated with gamma irradiation, because the disease is so deadly and contagious.

However, I understand that other countries may not have such heavy laws around AFB management and I’d love to hear about this. We receive a few emails from customers, in the USA for example, with questions about how to manage AFB, and our best advice is to speak to their local authorities about this to understand what the legal requirement is.

Do you use antibiotics and if so, how effective do you find this? I’ve heard it doesn’t do much to eradicate the disease and the downfall is still inevitable, and as the AFB load builds, the fall is much more impactful and thus dangerous for the spreading.

What is your experience with AFB, and what country are you in?

For those unaware, here’s some information on AFB (note this is an Australian website and guidelines). The best AFB strategy in my opinion is prevention, prevention, prevention!

Well said Bianca…and over the long term even with taking the most prudent measures of prevention, I think once the disease moves into the feral population the battle is likely lost. And it sure doesn’t help when sloppy beekeepers…commercial and hobbyist…store infected equipment in locations not secure from robbing bees. I’ve seen that all too often.

My approach to avoiding AFB in my hives:

  1. Start out with all new equipment and stock with package bees…not nucs.
  2. When requeening or making up your own nucs, purchase queens from breeders that use the hygenic trait selection as a priority. I never produce my own queens because I don’t have the resources to keep that hygenic trait pure.
  3. Burn or irradiate diseased equipment.

AFB has been in North America for over 80 years…and if it hadn’t been for the discovery of antibiotics and its application to honeybee colonies, the industry would have had a very difficult time to survive. Using the above listed strategies, I’ve been able to run a small operation (20 hives) for 8 seasons without the use of antibiotics.

As a side comment, from time to time I have to restock my hives with packaged bees…in recent years from New Zealand. I suspect most package bee producers use antibiotics prophylactically in AFB disease management so in that sense I indirectly rely on the effects of antibiotics to keep me in business.


Hi Bianca,

I’m in Sydney Australia, unfortunately, I lost my strongest hive to AFB a year or so ago. It was only on one frame, the last one checked, gut wrenching to say the least. Everything was done as per DPI requirements. The flow itself still sits double bagged out of harms way, along with the base etc. I was told that a chlorine/water bath also kills any remnants of AFB. If it goes to Steritech the radiation can do the frames in. I also have three other hives in close proximity, none of these have any signs of AFB. I also brought in other beekeeping mates (using my equipment) to double check. I often wonder what other countries require for AFB affected flows.

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I think that the only reply from Bianca would be to stick strictly with the DPI requirements. That’s the only advice anyone can give, really. Any advice to the contrary can land the advisor in deep hot water.

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Hi Brian, It is a question best raised with the DPI when it comes to alternatives to Irradiation, are these still bagged up since being eradicated with petrol in the hive?

You might find the fumes also damage the Flow Frames if they had petrol directly on them or have been soaking the fumes for a long time.

We do recommend to use 1 dose of irradiation making sure it doesn’t exceed 10kGy, one of the issues is that Irradiation can fluctuate and often Flow Frames are put in as filler for other loads, so can be damaged as a result. Keep us updated on how you go with Irradiating these, and know we really want to support you in your beekeeping so email us if anything goes wrong with your Flow Frames and we can help further. –Kieran