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Foulbrood is a very serous disease for bees. It is a nasty bacterial infection of larvae and pupae. Unfortunately it highly contagious and if no action is taken it will certainly kill a colony.

It is good idea to familiarise yourself with the symptoms because it important to take action fast. In fact, if you suspect that your bees have either of the two types you are legally required to contact the National Bee Unit - so that your local bee inspector can examine your hive. You do not need to be embarrassed about discovering this disease, in fact quite the opposite; you have done a service to the bee keeping community in stopping the spread of the disease. There are two types:

American Foulbrood (AFB)
This is the most serious of the two but the least widespread. Contrary the what the name suggest - American Foulbrood is not an American problem - it occurs in the UK also. American Foulbrood is a bacterium that infects the larvae. It lives in their guts and causes them to die after the brood is sealed. Unfortunately, there is no way of curing a colony with AFB and the colony will have to be destroyed. The symptoms are:

  • The capped brood will appear sunken, moist and dark
  • There may be an unpleasant rotting smell
  • If to push the end of a matchstick into an infected cell - the cell contents can be drawn out like a mucus thread

European Foulbrood (EFB)
This is slightly less serious to AFB but is much more widespread. This is bacterial infection similar to AFB, however the larvae are killed by the bacteria before the cell is capped. There are treatments for EFB, but only if it is caught early. The symptoms are:

  • The larvae turn yellowish brown and twisted

If you are unsure if your bees have either of these diseases, you should the National Bee Unit. For more detailed information about either American Foulbrood or European Foulbrood you should visit the Bee Base website for their helpful advisory leaflets

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