What to do if I find AFB in one of my hives?

This is a hypothetical question. I did not find AFB in my hives, but in a neighbour’s. I had advice to prevent AFB in my hives by feeding antibiotics. Feeding antibiotics to bees is illegal in NSW, Australia, unless you get a prescription from the vet for EFB. EFB can be completely cured, whereas AFB can’t be cured, because the spores will survive.

Another way to prevent an AFB outbreak if you suspect your spore count to be high due to AFB close by, is to cycle old broodframes into the honey super and after extraction either irradiate or destroy the old comb.
Now, this isn’t possible if you have flow frame honey supers. Also, the frame cycling wouldn’t prevent AFB if your healthy bees go and rob honey from a weaker AFB affected colony in the neighbourhood.

I heard to requeen with a queen bred for hygiene might help when the spore count isn’t too high.
Another way of prevention is to plant medicinal plants.

What do flow hivers around the World do for AFB prevention or treatment?
Is there anybody out there who successfully dealt with AFB without having to feed antibiotics constantly?

I’d take the Flow super off immediately until the threat diminishes. This way when your bees rob his sick hive they don’t contaminate the Flow frames. Woodenware and regular frames are easier to burn and cheap to replace.


This is a great FB page to be part of. Set up for QLD but all contributors are positive & have great information. There are things you MUST do & a right way to do it, for your own & everyone else’s hives too. They are trying to destigmatise the reporting of hives with AFB & other diseases. It’s much better to report & clean it up than keep it hidden. They are also mapping where & when it occurs so that other beekeepers can be aware when it is close by & be more vigilant when inspecting their own hives. It’s a great idea & would be helpful if there was a page per state.

AFB Aware Greater Brisbane (American Foul Brood of Honey Bees)


As was recommended on the FB page, make sure the outbreak is reported to the authorities, his hives are destroyed, and quarantine your bees for 3 months and check your hives every 3 weeks. On the 5th inspection without symptoms, things are looking up.

You posted this on July 4th. Have you seen any symptoms yet? How close is your neighbor?


The neighbour is 800m away as the bee flies, maybe a bit less.
He did the right thing, killing and burning the bees and the broodframes, everything is sealed up to go to irradiation.
Fortunately no symptoms in the brood of my colonies - yet. It’s early days I suppose if my bees went on a robbing spree.
Flow supers are off, except one. I will just leave it. Checking diligently.
We still have no idea where he got the AFB from in the first place.

Antibiotics kill off the bacteria in the gut of the bee that protects them from AFB, EFB and Nosema. I started in 1974. I have seen AFB in other hives as I went around with various bee inspectors. I have never seen any in my hives and I have not used antibiotics in my hives since 1975.

IF you find AFB most places require burning the equipment. Obviously that would be very expensive especially with Flow frames, so you may want to look into alternatives. One of those is irradiation. That will kill AFB spores. It is available in some places here in the US.

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I would have a look at the FB page & let them know where this outbreak is also. He has some really important information & images of what to look for very early on, before your hive is demonstrating the extremes of an infestation, which gives you more opportunity of saving other hives in your apiary. It may sound like I’m pushing this page, but I was impressed by the information on there & what he is trying to achieve & the manner in which it’s done.
I just thought I’d add that I thought that one of my hives may have had AFB much earlier this year, in the summer, & the information I was able to get hold of was all about the advanced stages, but it did lead me to do much deeper research into all of the diseases which could possibly affect my hives. It wasn’t AFB, it was Chalk Brood, in my hive. The symptom of AFB which misled me & confused me, at first, was a bad odour from the affected hive. I had tests done, which confirmed Chalk Brood, & I notified appropriate authorities.


The use of antibiotics to treat AFB is considered, if not poor practice, illegal in most states of Australia. It is not recognised as a viable method of dealing with AFB. It may be different in the US & elsewhere?

Our state apiarist said that antibiotics merely suppress AFB but does not eliminate it.


He is 100% correct. The problem is the “spores”. The bacteria which cause tetanus and botulism do the same thing as the AFB bacteria. They make highly resilient spores which can last for many decades (maybe longer) in harsh (cold and dry) conditions. Once conditions are right, the spores “germinate” and produce a new generation of bacteria. While they are in the spore state, they are in “suspended animation”. Antibiotics all rely on bacteria being metabolically active, which spores are not. So antibiotics will not kill spores. The only things which can kill them are bleach, extreme heat (well above boiling water temperature) and radiation.

I have been involved in the care of a child who developed botulism as a result of a new construction site here in California. There was no history of honey ingestion, but when the excavation site was tested, botulism spores were found. The child was successfully treated with an extremely expensive antibody (over $100,000 for a single dose), but the point is, these bacteria which make spores are extremely resilient. Please be vigilant for our bees. Botulism is the human equivalent of AFB.


Hi Michael. Your theory makes total sense and reflects my experiences. I brought up my kids without treating them with antibiotics. It requires just a bit more care sometimes.

Hi Dawn. I never had any experience with botulism and didn’t know the bacteria create survivor spores as well. Is it AFB spores that can cause botulism in human babies? Or a botulism similar disease?
Botulism is anaerobic, isn’t it? And AFB also thrives in anaerobic conditions, in capped brood cells.
Years ago, drug addicts had honey in their prescribed injectable methadone mix, some got sepsis caused by AFB, but not botulism.

So potentially there could be a cure for AFB, albeit a very expensive one. For countries like NZ whose goal is AFB eradication, this could be a viable option to save their industry losses.
Just out of interest, how many doses did the child need?


Not really. Just they are both “spore-forming bacteria”. Here is an article about the concept:

Just one. :wink:

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Hello all,
I purchased a nuc 10 months ago from a beekeeper who now openly admits to using antibiotics to prevent AFB twice a year in his hives. He also discussed the use of the antibiotics to treat another beekeepers hive that was infected with AFB. Both of which are illegal in my state. We could assume then that his hives have also had at some point AFB and he has used this treatment on them as well. At no time did he mention the use of antibiotics at the time of purchase.
My hive is currently very strong and was able to make a split from these some months ago and now have 2 very strong hives coming through the very mild winters we have in Queensland. There are no signs of AFB in either hive.

  • So my question is how long with no further antibiotic treatment would it take for the hives to declare themselves to be infected with AFB.

Your bees will be ok after all this time. Don’t worry about it any more. It is generally assumed that hives have a certain spore count, and to get an outbreak a few circumstances must come together.
Just keep your bees healthy.
To add to that, ollies lolly (antibiotics with sugar) is still used by a few beekeepers, and some might not have caught up with the laws. Perhaps not so much used where nucs are sold, but where the bees get taken to almond pollination and in remote places.
Its reasonable to believe where you got your bees from the lolly was only used for other hives, not the ones meant to be sold.

Actually not MY theory. It was first shown by Martha Gilliam back in the 1980s and more recently in the early 2000s and now the most recent research finally got to the mechanism. It was always a bit of a mystery to me how gut bacteria in a worker protects the larvae, but the most recent research shows that exposure to the beneficial gut bacteria triggers the immune system of the larvae giving it immunity to many things. If the nurse bees don’t feed the beneficial bacteria to the larvae, then they are susceptible to many brood diseases including EFB, AFB, chalkbrood etc.

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Unfortunately, using terramycin (oxytetracycline) as a preventative for AFB is a common practice here and is preached by most of the clubs and organizations as necessary. When you inform people here that it is, not only not recommended, but illegal in most of the rest of the world they are stunned. Fumidil (Fumigillan) is also routinely used here for Nosema even though Nosema cerana has pretty much displaced Nosema apis and all the latest research shows that Fumidil makes Nosema cerana worse…


Those insights also hold true for humans by principle. It is encouraging to see a commercial beekeeper of your caliber promote healthy beekeeping Michael.
You are a mentor to a lot of beginners and sure one of my favs.
So, if by some unfortunate coincidence you would find AFB, you would destroy and burn and not dose I understand.
We have irradiation available here and many beekeepers make use of it. It’s just a tad cheaper than buying everything new and assembling.

If I had irradiation available cheap then I would do that. Certainly it would be worth investigating if you have something expensive such as a flow hive at stake.

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So frustrating when the information is there & the evidence to back it up & even ‘the authorities’ refuse to act upon it.

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