Expert on bee disease addresses Warkworth club

American Foulbrood national compliance manager Clifton King will address Warkworth Beekeepers on June 6, following an upsurge nationally in the prevalence of the destructive bee disease.

Mr King says the increasing incidence of American Foulbrood (AFB) follows rapid growth in the honey bee industry that has inevitably also seen a growth in more inexperienced beekeepers, unfamiliar with how to combat the disease.

“Many beekeepers are willing to do the right thing but they need additional education and advice. Other beekeepers need encouragement to take that advice,” Mr King says.

One promising sign is that in the last 12 months, 19 cases of AFB have been reported in the Mahurangi area, down slightly on the 24 cases reported last year.  

Mr King says beekeepers need to inspect their hives regularly for AFB and if they find it, must destroy the hive by burning it.

In addition, they must limit the exchange of parts between hives, which in turn limits the spread of the disease.

American Foulbrood is a bacterium that infects one to four day old larvae in the hive brood nest and prevents the birth of new bees.

An average worker bee lives for about 23 days. If there is not regular production of new bees the hive weakens and becomes vulnerable to attack from bees from neighbouring hives, which in turn spreads the disease to the hives of the attacking bees.

In a diseased hive, cells containing larvae will be discoloured or have holes in their cell caps.  

Mr King works for the American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan, which is part of Apiculture New Zealand, an industry body that represents beekeepers.

He says his agency is relatively small and it’s imperative beekeepers take responsibility for managing the disease themselves with the agency in support.

Mr King was invited to Warkworth by the Warkworth Beekeepers Society.  He will speak at Warkworth Primary School on June 6 at 7.30pm. All welcome.