American Foulbrood breaks out in Maungaturoto

Honey bees commonly rob other weaker hives, if they spot the chance.

Honey bees commonly rob other weaker hives, if they spot the chance.

The American Foulbrood (AFB) Management Agency has confirmed it’s dealing with an outbreak of the bee disease in Maungaturoto and beekeepers are urged to check their hives thoroughly.   

Maungaturoto beekeeper and disease elimination conformity agreement (DECA) inspector Jim Sharp says beekeepers can identify foulbrood because it has a sulphur smell.

Brood (the egg larvae) can also be checked by giving it a stir. If it comes out as a sticky substance, it is infected.

AFB is most commonly spread on hive tools but can also be transmitted when a stronger hive robs a weaker hive of honey.

“If we have it in Maungaturoto, chances are it will also be in the surrounding areas,” Mr Sharp says.

AFB is largely under control in New Zealand, but in the 1800s it nearly wiped out the country’s entire population of honey bees.

Since 1950, hives found to be infected by AFB are required to be destroyed.

AFB Management Agency northern operations manager Dwayne Hill says the agency is sending a level 2 inspector to investigate hives in the area to try to determine the source of the outbreak.

In addition to  beekeeper’s own checks, Mr Hill says it is important that all hives in the area are also checked by a DECA inspector, whether they are registered or not.

While it is legally required for hive owners to register their hive, Mr Hill says the agency will offer an amnesty to unregistered hive owners.

“We would rather people just come forward. We don’t want to discourage anyone from getting checked and registering, even if they’ve had a hive for 30 years,” he says.

The agency receives 30 to 40 reports a day of unregistered hives.

During August, inspectors checked 3170 hives nationwide and found 48 infected with AFB.

Hive owners are legally required to have their hives checked by a DECA inspector annually, between September 1 and December 15.

“Finding and reporting AFB makes you a better beekeeper. It’s preferable to trying to manage it yourself and infecting the rest of your hives,” Mr Hill says.

Beekeeping gear should be cleaned regularly as spores can live on equipment for 35 years.

See for a list of local DECA inspectors.

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