Bee Diseases and Pests – A summary

This is by no means a definitive list, but a good starting point to understand all the issues affecting honeybees and I thought humans had it bad.

Brood Diseases
American Foulbrood (AFB) – one of these most highly infectious bee diseases with no known cure. The brood is infected and die in the larvae and pupae stage, if not intercepted other hives in the vicinity will also become infected and die. In some states/countries this disease MUST be reported, all bees MUST be destroyed and hive equipment burnt, treated or irradiated. Spores remain viable for decades. Honey is unaffected for human consumption though not recommended as this may assist in spreading the disease.

Perforated cells of AFB and the Ropiness test for AFB

European Foulbrood (EFB) – Whilst not as serious as AFB, this disease affects the larva, pupa and young adult bees. The bacteria lives in the bee gut and essentially starves the bee of nutrients. Beekeeper hygiene is essential to keep the disease isolated, an ailing queen should be replaced with a young vigorous queen with hygienic traits where possible. Antibiotics have been effective in treating EFB, avoiding stress to the hive via migrating/moving, opening the hive excessively and replacing old brood comb has been shown to be an effective control.

Dead larvae in their cells going from yellow to black and the Larva killed by EFB

Sacbrood – Caused by a virus and not considered to be major problem, infection occurs within a couple of days of the larva stage. The larva dies and the infection is spread by the nurse bees cleaning out the cells. requeening with a young, prolific queen with good hygienic behaviour is recommended. Good strong colonies of bees are able to keep the disease under control reasonably well.

Sack with fluid surrounding larva and Upturned dead bee larvae in their cells

Chalkbrood & Stonebrood – Caused by a fungus, is highly infectious with the spores remaining viable for up to 15 years. Chalkbrood can be easily diagnosed from the mummified bee larva outside the entrance to the hive. Treatments vary however this is a sign of weakened or stressed hive, ensure your hive is well ventilated, located in full sun and if this condition does not improve then introduce a new queen with hygienic traits.

Chalkbrood mummies at the entrance to the hive and Chalkbrood dead larvae in their cells on the brood comb

Nosema – a spore forming fungal parasite of adult honeybees which can cause large bee losses in autumn or spring. Infection occurs in the stomach and is passed from bee to bee via the cleaning of infected comb. Treatment in Australia is not available only prevention. Good forage with various pollen types and a good store of honey have been shown to assist a weakened colony, as well as positioning the hive in a sunny well protected spot during the cooler months.

Dysentery caused by nosema down the front of the hive

Other viruses to be aware but not so serious are:
Chronic paralysis – bees have deformed wings and cannot fly, thought to be a genetic disease and resolved by requeening

  • Kashmir bee virus- originated from the Asian honeybee and is similar
    to EFB and Sacbrood
  • Black queen cell virus – thought to be related to nosema, the queen
    dies in her cell
  • Cloudy wing virus – bee wings become opaque and the bees have shorter
    unproductive lives
  • Amoeba disease – parasite resulting from a nosema infection on adult
  • Flagellates – an infection of the posteria intestine in adult bees
    during the cooler months
  • Septicaemia – bacterial disease of the bees blood causing weakness,
    loss of balance and death

Pests of the bee
This differs from country to country
Varroa – external parasitic mite that feeds on the bees blood that spreads disease. It targets adult bees and larva. There are two known types of varroa, destructor and jacobsonii. Destructor requires apis mellifera as the host. Jacobsonii will feed and breed on both mellifera (european honeybee) and cerana (asian honeybee) this parasite does not occur in Australia. There is no treatment advised here as they vary from country to country and are evolving as the mite adapts. A real nasty SOB.

Wax Moth – causes serious damage to the cells, moth larvae burrow through cell walls leaving silk trails as they go. It is also an indicator that the colony is not well. The moth will also damage stored comb, recommended comb is frozen for several days to kill any larva then sealed and stored.

Small Hive beetle (SHB) – can destroy a healthy hive in a week though they prefer the weaker colonies to infest. The beetle larva burrow through comb eating honey, pollen, brood and sliming it as they go. There are a number of chemical treatments and traps on the market to keep beetles under control.

Tracheal mites – internal parasite that lives and breeds within the bees breathing tubes feeding on the blood and weakening the bee. Treatment is using Menthol crystals within the hive which evaporate and kill the mites, this parasite does not occur in Australia.

Tropilaelaps mite - these parasitic mites eminate from the giant honey bees of Asia and are present on honeybees in Papua New Guinea, however they are not known to be in Australia. These mites are smaller than varroa being 1mm in length. Similar to varroa they reproduce inside sealed brood cells and emerge with the adult bee, the parasitised bee may be stunted, have deformed wings and shrunken abdomens. Heavily infested colonies may abscond.

Braula Fly (Braula Coeca) - commonly known as bee louse and is a reddish brown wingless fly 0.75mm long and can be seen with the naked eye. It is a scavenger often clinging to the hair of the honeybee and feeding on honey and pollen being fed to the queen, workers or drones. They are not considered to be a serious threat to the colony unless, though large infestations can hinder egg and brood production. Braula is not on the mainland of Australia, however they do exist in Tasmania and as such strict controls are in place moving bees and / or equipment from Tasmania.

Other parasitic pests
Mellitiphis mite

Other pests includes:
Happy to revise if I have left anything out.

Video links => 5 video's about diseases and pests


Out of interest, do all these ills exist with wild bees too, or are they confined to man-made hives?

Updates provided for Braula and Tropilaelaps

Hi guys!
What happen if a colony with flow hive, infected by AFB or EFB?

Hi @michang, Sames as for all hives, the Flow is no different. For EFB depending on where you live, antibiotics may prove effective in treating the bees, for AFB, there is no cure and the bees should be destroyed and the hive either burnt of irradiated. Irradiation is the preferred method, the gamma rays destroy all organic life and the hive is left unaffected. This is not available in all countries so check with you local beekeeping group.

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Hi @Rodderick, thank you
Hmnnnn, so basically AFB is the most serious problem, more than Varroa mite, right?
The AFB outbreak is common or rare ? and is there something we can do to prevent this diseases?

I can smell the foul smell of AFB just looking at it on the computer screen.

Hi Michael its a very serious issue and more than varroa as it cannot be treated successfully, spores can be viable for decades. Its not common, but the spores are everywhere and can overrun one hive and leave the others without infection. Some say its spread by beekeepers tools and practices, however I believe it must be passed though the bees coming in to contact with spores passed on the flowers they visit.


If there is no gamma radiation, a hive that infected must be burn, include the bees colony, how about the beekeepers tools? Do we need to clean every tools that we used in one hive, before continue in the other hive, to prevent this?
Is there are any breeds that have more resistance to this diseases? Buckfast? Russian? or any native bees?

Wow, you have supernatural gift than! :smile:
Did AFB ever infected in one of your hives?

Hi Michang, yes, I’ve had it a few times. It’s easy to combat if you know what your doing. It’s in my area, so I’m checking the brood for signs of it whenever I’m working it. A SHB infestation smells pretty bad also.

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Hi Michael, in beekeeping there is the “barrier system”, this will help with hygiene practise between your hives. See the link below for an explanation, this is an Australian government link that is well trusted for their researched facts.

As for AFB resilient bees, I have not heard if one species is better than another at keeping the infection at bay, however it may be well worth investigating.

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Hi @JeffH & @Rodderick
One of my hives have some yellow brood, only in 1 frame, I bought this colony (or NUC) 2 days ago . .
Many bees from this colony were dead, and I found some of them in half body like this:

This only happen in one colony, the others colony is OK,
Do you guys think this is problems? what problems is this? the beekeeper shop said they will replace the colony if there is a problem . .
Should I replace?

Hi Michael, they look like they were in various stages of pupation. Is it possible some of the brood cells were damaged in an inspection or during transport? If this is the case the bees will uncap the damaged cells and remove the brood and throw them to the bottom of the hive and they will then be dragged out to the front of the hive over the next few days. They don’t look diseased but difficult to tell just from photographs.

What season is it where you are @michang ? If late Autumn then there is a very good chance these are drone brood and bees are tossing them out, all perfectly normal.

Oh, it’s nice to hear that . . :slight_smile:
Yes, maybe when transport from the beekeeper shop to my place, the hive were damaged.
This colonies is the most populous colonies I ever have, more than the first colonies I bought.
Thank you very much for your analysis :smiley:

Well, I lived in Indonesia @Rodderick, it’s drought season right now,
but because climate change, we don’t know what seasons right now :confused:
Sometimes, although it’s drought season, rain still happen. .

FYI. We have done some tests irradiating the flow frames and have some info on our website.


Thanks for sharing this informative information abouts bees.


Hey Rodderick, I totally agree with the post you have shared. Even I had also heard about American foulbrood (AFB), which is caused by the spore-forming Paenibacillus larvae ssp. Larvae, is the most widespread and destructive of the bee brood diseases. I remember Few days ago USA was caught with plague disease caused by rats then the environmental officer took the decision to have some Helpful hints from Pest control agents to get rid of all the rats. Likewise If all the areas of Indonesia are caught with American foulbrood, Then you should also take steps forward to contact Pest control.

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how to remove tick bees ?

what is good method ?

Hi fellow Australian beekeepers.

Here is a photo I just took of a Braula fly from one of my hives in Tasmania. Very small and sits often on the top of the thorax. This little insect is not yet present on the mainland of Australia and is why we can not send used bee frames etc out of the State. I sourced some tobacco and once they were exposed to a bit of the smoke I was amazed to see the little wingless flies run around crazily over the bee’s thorax, and then drop off the bee stone dead.