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Euthanising - what are the most humane and effective methods?

Hey Forum

I’d like to reach out to our ‘brain trust’ to know what the recommended methods are for euthanising a colony (AFB) that is as humane and effective as possible.

I’ve personally only done this once and tried the soapy water method with minimal effect. It was very heartbreaking, so am looking for better alternatives to recommend to others.

B

Ok, I’ll bite.

As I see it, there are few aspects that needs to be addressed before the process. And while addressing them, a method becomes a very personal choice of a beekeeper.

  1. Minimising suffering of bees.
  2. Safety of a beekeeper.
  3. Phycological protection of the beekeeper.
  4. Practicality of a method.

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  1. The first is a bit blurry one, since we do not have a good data about pain and suffering perception by insects. Current level of knowledge is in a range of “probably not” and “don’t know”. But, at least, we can minimise suffering by killing as quick as possible.
  2. Not all method that kill quick are safe for beekeepers, especially for those who have a vague idea about dealing with hazardous materials.
  3. We are all different. Some don’t see anything at all in killing an insect, some find it difficult. And this point makes a choice of method a very personal one. What method do you personally think causes less suffering? Are you OK with observing the process of colony dying or prefer not to see it?
  4. Some methods are quick and “humane”, but too expensive or may be not available, or simply illegal in certain jurisdictions.

So, here we are.
For those who prefer personal safety over everything and don’t mind to get close and personal, soap water could be a way to go.

Rugs soaked with diesel fuel for those who cares about personal safety the most and don’t want to see dying. Pouring isopropyl alcohol into hive is an alternative.

Sulphur dioxide for those who want it quick and don’t mind to deal with toxic gas. Bagging hive with pyrethroid is an option for those who can spend a bit more money.

And a long read for everyone.

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A cup of petrol poured into the top of the hive will kill all the bees very fast :cry: there is a roar- and then silence. Afterwards the equipment can be sent to steritech in Sydney to be irradiated. then cleaned and aired out for re-use.

Flow frame I think cannot be recovered: I saw one person in sydney who had AFB. they sent their frames to queensland to be irradiated as steritech is apparently too strong. However after they got their frames back they were brittle and fell apart. When the tool was used all of the little tabs in the top channel cracked and fell apart.

Killing a hive is a horrible job- but as responsible beekeepers it pays to remind yourself that in so doing you are helping all the bees in that area. The infected hive is doomed- and left alone will simply spread AFB to other hives in the area.

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Thanks for your thoughts and opinions guys.

Just re gamma irradiation on the Flow Frames - cracking is able to be prevented if the treatment is closely managed i.e. it doesn’t exceed 1 x 15 kGy which is the Flow Frame plastic limit.

Steritech in Brisbane is much more versed in irradiating Flow Frames and I believe has more control over the levels, so I always recommend that beekeepers only send their FF there and avoid the Sydney site.

Are you able to elaborate on the ‘Rugs soaked with diesel fuel’ method?

Sorry, it must be rags. The text from the link I provided:

Unleaded petrol, diesel

Unleaded petrol and diesel are both petroleum-derived flammable liquids used primarily as a fuel in most internal combustion engines. Petrol engines are spark-ignited whereas fuel ignition in diesel engines takes place without any spark, as a result of compression of the inlet air mixture and then injection of fuel (Gold, 2019). Regulation (EU) No. 528/2012 considers neither unleaded petrol nor diesel. Accordingly, diesel is characterized by a lower flammability risk and thus preferred to accomplish the task described below. Petrol is toxic by ingestion, inhalation of vapours, skin contact, and eye contact (United Petroleum PTY Ltd, 2017). Diesel is not considered particularly toxic. Acute or short-term exposure can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, or respiratory tract (Q8 Quaser s.r.l., 2019).
Once the hive entrance has been closed, the lid of the colony is removed and unleaded petrol or diesel fuel is applied to a cloth placed under the hive lid or directly onto the frames in the top box. The chambers may need to be split and diesel added also to the lower chamber. The colony is closed by replacing the lid firmly onto the hive for a minimum of 10 minutes to prevent the bees from escaping. It may take 5–15 minutes before all bees are dead (Agriculture Victoria, 2016). It is important to remember that diesel is introduced into the hive to kill the bees, not as a fire accelerant.

I agree with @Semaphore .Petrol works for me. It doesn’t even need to be a cup full, maybe a small cup is all that’s needed.

I’ve used surface spray via that little tube you pull out at right angles to the tin.

I’ve used a cockroach bomb to kill colonies in cavities where trapping them out is virtually impossible or impractical. They are very fast. It gets in to every nook & cranny & kills everything, even cockroaches. However for a bee hive, you can’t go past petrol fumes.

Soapy water in some circumstances is a suitable method to kill bees. From memory it was recently approved in the US.

It is even mentioned as a potential strategy by Bee Aware Managing pests and diseases « Bee Aware

The frames I saw were sent to Brisbane on advice from flow- they all cracked after one use upon return. It’s a bit of a disaster actually as they are in hives all full of gorgeous honey. The plastic is very brittle.

I spoke to my friend in Sydney today- she has to deal with several afb hives In Sydney every year. AFB seems far more common there than here in Adelaide. She like Jeff said only about half a cup of petrol is sufficient. She also tries to pack the hives down as much as possible before doing the deed (remove excess supers). Then everything gets irradiated at steritech regardless of if it will be used again or destroyed.

Commercial beekeepers in the country will often burn the entire hive on site, or wrap it completely in cling wrap and then burn it later

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The most humane and effective method for killing a colony of honeybees I know of is the application of calcium cyanide. Within 5 seconds the hive is dead…completely.

The problem with this method is acquiring the product…perhaps a commercial guy may have some some and has a special license…don’t know what the regulations are in Australia. And applying such a toxic chemical…well that’s a story in inself.

After the Bopal, India disaster at a factory where this chemical was manufactured and 2000+ workers etc. died, it has been banned in most countries.

That AFB in your hives is most disconcerting…if it ever happens to me (knock on wood…I haven’t used antibiotics for 8 years), I will start over with all new equipment.

It’s a tough decision Bianca

Here is an alternative to any of the above suggestions regarding AFB. BUT it has to be done before AFB has become serious. Start a replacement programme of the brood frames, making sure that no brood frame has been used for any more than 4 years. Reason for doing so, is that the number of AFB spores increase in number slowly, and by replacing brood frames every 4 years, the number of spores can be kept under control. That advise was give to us at our Wagga Wagga Amateur Beekeepers Club, by a commercial beekeeper (second generation). He said that by taking such action will highly limit the chance of a beehive having to be destroyed because of an outbreak of AFB. This was interesting information, as 3 months ago a beekeeping group in Wagga Wagga New South Wales Australia has had to destroy 10 hives that had become infected with AFB, the bees and the hives that they were in. I am quietly confident that the above information given by the commercial beekeeper to us is reliable.

@Bianca,

Link is to a video using the petrol method.

Much prefer this method. The petrol method didn’t seem instant.

You might have not had a high enough concentrate of detergent.

Scroll to 25min point of vid.

I forgot to mention that the honey is ok for personal use, as long as robber bees can’t get to it. I would remove the flow super before the treatment, so that the honey can be retrieved. I would also retrieve any honey out of the brood box by cutting the honey arc away, leaving the brood behind.

There’s a lot in what @Buzzing-bees said about refreshing brood frames. You could probably refresh them annually, which wouldn’t be all that radical an idea. That might be why I haven’t seen an AFB for a few years, because I’m constantly splitting hives & refreshing the brood frames.

I am not sure about that jeff- as I understand it- and from what I have seen- AFB can attack a brand new hive with brand new fresh frames- all new equipment. My friend who runs 90 hives in Sydney also replaces all her brood frames every 3 years or less- taking out 3 to 5 frames every spring and replacing with fresh foundation. She also runs a total barrier system where no frames are moved from one hive to another. She doesn’t donate brood, and she keeps all super frames separate during extraction- frames only go back to the hive they came from. She does all of that extra work to minimise any potential spreading of AFB throughout her apiaries.Yet she still gets AFB- one or two cases a year on average. She also encounters many more cases helping amateur beekeepers. The hives I mentioned above were another persons flow hives: brand new, only two seasons old and got AFB. Those hives were beautifully maintained- with the best equipment used. They were however in a known AFB zone…

and @Buzzing-bees you seem to be suggesting that you can treat a hive with AFB by removing and replacing some of the brood frames? If so I am pretty sure that is not correct. A hive with AFB starts to decline- if you removed brood- there is no way they could even draw out fresh frames let alone recover. I am pretty sure the reason that AFB is a notifiable disease, and the remedy is destruction of the hive- is because that is the only way to correctly deal with it. I am pretty sure what you are suggesting is actually against the bio security rules? There is no way PIRSA in SA would ever accept such a strategy.

I do believe replacing old brood frames every season is a very good idea, cycling out at least a third of the frames- it makes the bees more productive and helps reduce the chances of diseases and pests like chalk brood and wax moth. It’s also important for swarm prevention in spring to weaken hives that are too strong for their own good. But I don’t think it completely prevents AFB- and I certainly don’t think it treats AFB?

A PIRSA rep in SA told me that on average 1 in 100 hives succumb to AFB each year in SA. Personally I have been beekeeping here for 6 years now and heave never encountered AFB. I have only heard of a few outbreaks. In Sydney AFB seems to be a bit more common with certain suburbs/areas more affected.

I think trying to ‘treat’ an AFB hive and keep it going- could put other beehives at risk and certainly I wouldn’t contemplate such a course of action.

It’s heartbreaking to have to do it, but with AFB there is little choice.

I euthanised a colony with AFB by shaking the bees into a large cardboard box, placing 1/2 cup kero inside the box (just placed it in there in the cup) and closing it up. The fumes do the rest.

I hope none of you ever has to do this, but believe it was a relatively fast and humane way to go.

@Semaphore, Jack I am only repeating what a second generation commercial beekeeper told us at our local amateur beekeeper club. It is NOT my opinion, but I am hoping that the action that HE gave works.

Also Jack I’m not talking about a hive/s that have already been stated as being AFB infected, and that also an order has already been made for the destruction of said hive/s. Nor did the commercial beekeeper do so either. I’m saying that the action that he gave to us is purely preemptive action, that I sure hope can reduce the risk of having a full blown AFB outbreak. So I will be replacing the brood frames as pre his recommendations. Because if I was (ever) ordered to destroy my bees, and their hive, as happened 35kms away, where the order to destroy 10 beehives, including the bees inside them, then it would be the end of my venture into being an amateur beekeeper, as I could not afford to purchase another flowhive, plus the bees.
So I sure hope that the info I’ve been given, works. Not just for me, but for other amateur beekeepers too!!!

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OK- fair enough- I wasn’t sure if you were talking about a hive that already has AFB. I am sorry if I misread.

Unfortunately from what I have seen of AFB- merely replacing the brood frames periodically will not stop a hive becoming infected- as I mentioned I saw in Sydney a case earlier this year where two hives were infected- those hives were so well maintained, so new, had fresh brood frames, etc. You rarely see cleaner hives. The owner had done everything right.

I spoke to my friend who has a great deal of experience (25 years as a beekeeper - and maintaining 90 hives in Sydney as well as teaching beekeeping, mentoring and doing freelance beekeeping helping amateur beekeepers). She is absolutely sure that AFB can infect any hive: that it has little to do with the age or condition of the hive. She has to deal with multiple AFB hives every year- just in the last few months she has helped 3 different beekeepers deal wit their infected hives.

Regardless: you should still replace brood frames. I personally try to make sure no brood frame is in a hive for more than 3 or maybe 4 years. I try and replace 1/4 or 1/3 of all brood frames every spring.

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Hi Jack, I agree that changing brood frames is definitely not a cure for AFB. It’s just a good practice anyway. I’m a firm believer that colonies pick AFB up by robbing hives that are already infected. Therefore, no matter how new everything is inside the hive, if a colony does happen to rob an infected hive, that colony will succumb to it.

I wonder if bees could even pick it up foraging? I have filled my garden with perennial basil and ever day all the bushes are absolutely humming with bees- I assume from many hives and not just my hives. Could a bee drop a spore on a flower and then the next bee picks it up? Luckily (touching wood) it does seem very uncommon here. It’s such an awful bee disease. Hopefully scientists can come up with a biological ‘vaccination’ against it one day.

Yes. There are so many vectors for AFB, it is better not to think about. Flowers included. But in case of transfer through the flowers risk probably not particularly high. To get infected, larva needs to receive not less than 10,000 spores with food. Free dry spores exposed to sun light die in 28-41 hours.

In general, anything that was in contact with AFB spores may transfer it to another colony. Tools, equipment, wax foundation, queens, packets… Wax moth, ants, varroa, wasp…

Strong, healthy colonies prone to robbing are good candidates for getting AFB without any “middleman”.