Inner West Sydney - AFB

weve recently moved house, only 2 kms away so had my mentor out to help me relocate hives to a friend’s place for a few months until i am able to bring them to the new place.

To prepare, I extracted all the flow frames and ended up with a tonne of honey. Then we thought we’d do an inspection before getting thebhives ready to move.

In a devastating turn of events for me, We found AFB on the first frame. Then checked the second hive to find the same. There is another Newtown hive reported with AFB as well in the last week, so we obviously have a problem in the area.

The urban beehive guys immediately came and filmed an inspection for potential educational use in their courses then we swapped the ladies into spare boxes, sealed up the 2 Flow 2s in bags and got them ready to go to steritech for irradiation.

Then that night we had to kill the girls.


Has anyone had experience with irradiating the flow frames? I was told wood will be fine but I need to send my plastic components to a Queensland facility that is able to specify the rate of radiation so as not to damage the plastic frames?!

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My heart sank reading this Rob. I am so terribly sorry. It is heart breaking.

I’m sure Jeff or Pete or someone will chime in soon with some valuable advice.

I’m pretty sure I read about Flow frames being irradiated, so I know they can be saved.

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Gee Rob, your not winning a trick mate. Really sorry to read that you have AFB. It is in my thinking the worst of the worst that we have in Australia for bees to date.:unamused::unamused:
Your on the right track, Steritech in Brisbane are the guys to do the treatment and all is not lost. Give them a phone call and they will know exactly how to do the treatment and what you need doing. I had AFB many many years ago and the treatment then was to burn everything in a bon-fire but it has all changed over time. but I would ask about if you should send your suit and hive tools and about anything else that should be treated as well.
My only first-hand experience is about 35 years and will be obsolete. Let us know how it goes please.
Regards Rob.

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I can only go by what I’ve read on here in relation to flow frames & AFB. I read that flow frames can get irradiated only once. It’s heartbreaking to find AFB, then have to kill the bees. All I know is that the DPI needs to be notified after you suspect AFB in the hives. Follow their instructions.

A local person with a flow hive came to me during the week with a brood frame to take a look at. It looked like early stage AFB was in that hive. The owner recognized the feint foul odor. That person was instructed to send a sample in to get tested. This is in QLD., N.S.W. might be different.

The first thing we need to learn as beekeepers is to be able to distinguish unhealthy brood in among healthy brood.

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Sorry to hear.

This is definitely one thing i hope i dont come across. What a shame there still isnt a way to treat afb and stop the spores. fingers crossed one day soon there will be.

I definitely read on here about irradiation and what levels to use on the flow frames. I’ve heard up to 2 times at the right level otherwise they become brittle?

Fingers crossed you get back up and running in no time and dont come across it again.



Hi Rob, this is from the Flow website, hope it helps:

Gamma Irradiation:

In some countries, Gamma irradiation is used to sterilise equipment infected with American Foulbrood (AFB). A dose of 10 kGy is sufficient to eliminate AFB spores (Hornitzky&Wills, 1983; Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice, 2016, Pg 11). Flow Frames should be exposed to the minimum possible Gamma irradiation dose, in order to prevent degradation of frame components.

What you should do when treating with irradiation:

Check your model number. BZ8 Frames will withstand only one round of irradiation at 10 kGy. All other frame models will withstand 2 rounds of AFB sterilisation at 10 kGy. Some Irradiation facilities use beehives as ‘gap filler’ in larger loads. This means a single round may expose your frames to more than 40 kGy.

We recommend you contact the facility to discuss maximum doses. If you are in Australia (excluding Tasmania) we recommend that you send your frames to Steritech’s Brisbane Facility . This facility is capable of controlling the irradiation dose. If you need to send your Flow Frames for irradiation please mark them clearly for future reference.

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So sorry @Ropate. Please remember, this is not your fault. The bees did it themselves as part of their nature. Still very sad, and I feel pain on your behalf. :cry:

I know that Steritech has a good reputation, but I would call them and tell them that you have food grade polypropylene plastic in there, and they should use as low a dose as safely possible. It is worth talking to them, because they tend to “batch irradiate” stuff. If they assume it is all robust, they may give it a higher dose than it needs, just because it is convenient. My understanding is that they are willing to work with you if you just tell them what you have.

Perhaps @Freebee2 can help with this too. I know that Flow has worked quite a bit on this problem, and she may have some up to date info on it, or even the name of a contact in the company.

Meanwhile, I hope you start again, and I wish you lived near me, because I would bring you some bees over to start again when you are ready.
:blush: :hugs:

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Thanks for tagging me @Dawn_SD

@Ropate I am so sorry about your bees - and can certainly empathise, having had a hive contract AFB a couple of years back.

As you have been correctly advised by others here, you’ll need to contact the DPI and follow their advice - noting that it does change from time to time as the information gets better.

The likely scenario is though:

  • Bees: Will need to be euthanased, which I gather you’ve already done :frowning:
  • Hive body: Will unfortunately need to be burned
  • J Tool: Burn to eradicate AFB and then cool before reusing
  • Suit: Wash well a couple of times and dry in the sunshine
  • Frames: Will need to be irradiated (following the instructions given on the link someone kindly provided above). 80 degrees from memory. There are people in Sydney who can irradiate, but if you find they are unwilling, Steritech Brisbane will certainly be able to assist.

As AFB is reportable by law, you will need to speak to DPI anyway - so definitely check with them on the current advice as ABF is a nasty we all want to prevent from spreading.

I am really feeling for you having to deal with this - I think it’s every Aussie beekeepers worst nightmare. I hope you’ll get back on the horse quickly, in the knowledge that you have done everything you could and that these things just happen occasionally.

I hope that your next colony thrives and rewards your perseverance with plentiful harvests. Feel free to stay in touch if you need any support or assistance.


As a bit of additional general information - I was able to catch the ABF in the very early stages - the famously distinctive odour (which is slightly later stage sign) had not yet developed, nor was roping yet apparent. Some early red flags to watch out for during inspections:

  • Sunken, greasy looking capping

  • Scattered cell formation

  • Pin prick type perforations in the capping

  • General weakening of your colony

  • Appearance or increased numbers of Small Hive Beetles (since these are opportunistic and will take advantage of the weakened colony)

These signs can also be indicative of other issues, so please don’t panic or go burning your hive if you happen to see any of the above! Rather, you might consider these signs as cause to be vigilant and perhaps even ask the DPI to send you a sample kit if you are concerned.

Wishing you all happy and healthy colonies with none of the above in evidence.

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Hi @Freebee2

Your website says that in some jurisdictions a 20 minute immersion in bleach (0.5% sodium hypochlorite) can be used to sterilise and kill AFB spores and bacteria.

Is this still the case, and does it apply to Australia?

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Hi @Numbatino

It certainly isn’t the case where we are in Northern NSW (unless recently updated) - but I would always suggest getting in touch with your local Department of Primary Industries or similar local body so that you can be sure of getting the correct advice. We deal with customers in around 130 countries, so as you can imagine it varies greatly and even within Australia it can vary.

Hi Stefan, AFB spores behave differently in different jurisdictions. As you read, a 20 minute immersion in bleach will kill AFB spores in one area, but not in another, possibly just over a border. It would be a shame to burn a hive body while at the same time a 20 minute soak in bleach would be sufficient.


That’s exactly what I was thinking Jeff… but I thought I better shut up.

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I’d better shut up as well :frowning:

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Gutted for you @Ropate , I’ve been following your progress closely and learning.

A good reminder for beekeepers to be vigilant with inspections and even registration for the sake of other beekeepers and their colonies. Well done.

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Good news from the local sample that send away to be tested. The results came back today to confirm EFB, not AFB. Apparently there has been a lot of confirmations of EFB locally, the word unprecedented was used. The person is currently waiting on the DPI for further instructions.

As it turns out, sending samples away to be tested is the best way to go before jumping to conclusions.


As it turns out, sending samples away to be tested is the best way to go before jumping to conclusions.

So true @JeffH!


:pensive: I’m so very sorry for you and your bees Robert. An awful turn of events after your wonderful start. I’ve had my share of hive losses due to varroa, but having to take the extra steps you’re faced with because of AFB just adds another layer of grimness.

I hope things go better from here - keep us posted!