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American Foul Brood? Help from the Forum

Good morning all! Seeking help from the experienced beekeepers out there. I am a first-time beekeeper out in Colombia and I am worried that my nucs may have had American Foul Brood when they arrived which is now contaminating my hives. The problem I am running into is that Colombia doesn’t seem to have joined any global apiculture initiative to report diseases and none of the scientific literature coming out of the universities here has found evidence of AFB. In fact, they seem to claim that although many other South American countries do have the disease the bees here are better and somehow it isn’t a problem. I also haven’t been able to contact the national universities bee-keeping lab to determine if they can test for AFB and Amazon doesn’t ship the AFB test-kits here to colombia. Similarly, I doubt that I will be able to find a radiation service to irradiate my flow hive if I do have this disease. Also, when talking to the local beekeepers none of them seem to know anything about European or American Foul brood. It’s seems like they are just closing their eyes to the problem in general.

I was displeased when the nucs arrived because both showed a very spotty brood pattern and the combs were quite old and dark. At the time, I assumed that maybe we had been given some old frames with old or poorly mated queens but now I fear it may be AFB.

The signs that I have observed are:
- some perforated cell cappings (but generally the bees appear fine beneath them)
- dark cell cappings (rather than gold colored ones that you find in photos of “healthy brood pattern”
- coffee colored larvae (only a few)
- what appears to be melted blackened larvae in the bottom of some cells
- horrible smell from the blackened goo when probed with food pick
- some partially formed bees which had been uncapped and showed signs of a protruding tongue

However, I couldn’t find a single cell that actually roped out when removing the food pick from the cells. Additionally, there appear to be eggs in the bottom of cells (even those that look like they may have AFB scale) which I read that the queen will not lay in if infected. Attached are some photos.
















Looks like EFB to me, especially as you have no ropiness. AFB caps are often darker and more sunken. Perhaps @Doug1 can weigh in - he is very good at diagnosing these things. Meanwhile, here is a pretty good article:

https://beeinformed.org/2013/04/05/european-foulbrood-efb-identification/

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It’s really hard to say if it is either AFB or EFB…unless I had that frame in front of me. You never forget the smell of AFB…or the sight of dried AFB scale…but unfortunately I think your colony needs to be disposed of (burned) or given an antibiotic treatment (terramycin, tetracycline, or tylosin). I don’t know what your country’s regulations are. Are there any other experienced beekeepers around that can give you advice?

I hope you don’t get too discouraged after this experience. Rather, invest in some new equipment and start off with package bees…with nucs you are playing Russian roulette.

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Thanks for the advice Dawn and Doug. Unfortunately the regulations in Colombia are extremely poor and when I asked beekeepers with 40 years experience who run one of the businesses for Apiculture here in Medellin they told me they had never heard of American or European Foul Brood.

It is also very difficult to order package bees delivered to Colombia and I’d hate to burn my brand new Flow Hive 2+ after only having it for a month. I am going to try to treat with antibiotics and possibly order the AFB and EFB test kits although they are extremely expensive to ship here as well.

Any recommended articles on dosages of the antibiotics and proper application?

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I have never done it myself, but here is the page from Mann Lake in the US, with all of the products available here, including instructions:

https://www.mannlakeltd.com/shop-all-categories/hive-colony-maintenance/medications-treatments-herbicides/foulbrood

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There is the option to have the Flowhive and Flow Frames irradiated. The actual bees and the non-flow frames should be destroyed though.

There’s info here Flow™ Frame Sterilisation / Irradiation / Disease Control

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I believe that if your region accepts it, you can also soak them in a chlorine bleach solution. Here is the quote from Flow:

So if you can’t irradiate, you can consider bleach, but you will have to clean the frames of all wax first… :thinking:

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It is possible to make few field tests in an attempt to tell what it is, but they are not reliable and without a lab test you never could be 100% sure.

In the case of EFB caused by Streptococcus pluton ** the dry** dead larva does not stick to the cell wall as well as in the case of AFB. Take a needle and try to remove the ‘crust’ stuck to the wall. If it is AFB, it will be impossible to remove it without destroying the cell wall. With EFB, it will be possible to remove the ‘crust’ relatively easily. The test does not work if EFB was caused by Paenibacillus alvei. In this case dryed crust stick to the wall very well.

Another difference is the smell as it was mentioned above. AFB produces a ‘fish glue’ smell. EFB does not. In case of Streptococcus pluton recently died larva does not have any smell and later develops ‘sour fruit’ smell. In case of Paenibacillus alvei dead larva smells like rotten meat.

The ‘Rope’ test is not particularly reliable either. EFB more often affects open brood, but larva may die in sealed cells too and obtain colour and consistency of a larva that died of AFB.

I recommend trying those tests, but more for self-education purposes than for real diagnostics. The next question is what to do?

To be honest, if irradiation service is not available in your area, then blowtorching of timber and metal parts followed by chemical treatment is your only option. Handling harsh chemicals is inherently unsafe, so I am reluctant to post mixtures recipes here, but they could be found on the internet. ‘Mild’ version was posted above.

You will need to dig up the soil under the hive to the depth of 5 cm overturning it and chemically treat it by pouring liquid chemicals over it. For example, you may use Calcium hypochlorite, 5 kg per square metre mixed with the same amount of water. I think a 2-3 metres radius will be sufficient. I guess you can imagine what it is going to do to the soil…

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Excellent!! I can definitely get that here. Fortunately it’s only one month in and we don’t have any supers on and are still waiting for the comb to be drawn so if worse comes to worse I can start over after sterilizing with bleach.

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By the way, you took excellent photographs, marked them up beautifully and made it very easy to see the cause of your concern. Thank you :blush:

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Looks like Sac brood. Tail up. Remove the infected frames and requeening can help.

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I can’t see any signs of AFB in any of those photos. I’m inclined to agree with @HappyHibee . It’s certainly disturbing & needs treating.

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Ahh it could be sac brood as well. As for requeening…I’m not sure this makes a difference but in our flow hive brood box I did see a supersedure cell with an egg in it during the inspection.

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So in order to remove the infected frames I would essentially need to remove all frames from the brood box and start with completely new frames. Since this includes the nucleus frames and (I assume) the newly drawn comb too? Does this include newly drawn comb without brood? Can I slowly cycle out infected brood frames with new frames to keep some cells for the queen to lay in while new cells are drawn or will this just result in infecting the new frames as well. In other words, do I need to buy a new nuc or package with completely empty frames?

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You need to find out what have your colony got first. Have you sent a sample to the lab?

I know of someone who sent flow frames to Queensland and had them irradiated. On their return all the plastic snapped when the frames were harvested. The irradiation weakened/degraded the plastic significantly.

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Unfortunately, the only apiculture lab we have found here in Colombia is at the national university and they are not answering or returning phone calls. So, at this point, we don’t have any knowledge about the lab and if they conduct testing for diseases or just nutritional studies on pollen and honey.

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Well… I guess you may have to proceed without them. You may buy AFB and EFB tests online. They are not particularly expensive and usage does not require any special skills.
An example:
https://www.vita-europe.com/beehealth/products/afb-diagnostic-test-kit/
https://www.vita-europe.com/beehealth/products/efb-diagnostic-test-kit/

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