Attention Bee Keepers! Your Equipment is Contaminated!

Attention bee keepers: Your hive bodies, your supers, your tops and bottom boards, your bee suit, your hive tools, in short, ALL of your equipment is contaminated with American Foulbrood, a bacterial disease that will kill your bees and destroy your hive.

That's the bad news. The good news is that there is a simple treatment, which you should be doing ANYWAY that will keep the problem in check and allow you to continue to raise bees.

I'm sure that you're convinced that YOUR equipment couldn't possibly be contaminated. You might even be right, providing that you are using all new and virgin boxes, new frames, new foundation, new hive tools, a new bee suit, new bees, and you're raising them in Antarctica. For the rest of you, listen up: you have foulbrood spores in your equipment. ESPECIALLY if you've purchased used equipment. The spores that protect the “seeds” of the foulbrood bacteria are EVERYWHERE, even where there are no bee keeping operations. They're spores, they travel with the wind, by bird and animal movement, and yes, by taking your suit, bees, hive bodies, tools, and equipment from bee yard to bee yard. It's already happened. Get used to it. Learn to deal with it.

There are two approaches to living with foulbrood, one reasonable, the other not so much. One school of thought is that all equipment that has been exposed to foulbrood should be destroyed. Burned, and replaced with all new equipment. That will certainly reduce your problems in the short term, but your equipment will be re-contaminated eventually. Remember the wind? There's no avoiding it. That, and it's awfully expensive to replace your equipment very often. Burning your hives is simply not an economical solution.

A more reasonable way to deal with the problem is to treat your hives with the anti-biotic known commercially as Terramycin, available at good bee keeping supply retailers, or by mail. There are three ways of administering to your hive, but two of these methods aren't very good. You can mix it with the sugar syrup that you feed the bees, but the drug quickly breaks down and becomes useless. You can mix it with powdered sugar and dust the hive with the mix, but this also breaks down quickly, becoming ineffective.

So that's two ways to NOT administer Terramycin to your hives. The proper way to treat your hives is to mix the Terramycin with vegetable shortening (like Crisco tm or some store brand that does the same thing) and sugar. Mix this thoroughly, and press into patties between layers of wax paper. These patties can be placed between two hive bodies in your hive where the bees will discover it and consume the sugar and Terramycin and distribute it through the hive. It's simple really, and something that you should be doing anyway.

Do NOT have the patties on the hive less than three weeks before you place supers on your hive in anticipation of a honey flow. You do NOT want to contaminate any honey that humans might consume. If you bought equipment from me, I give you my promise that I NEVER had Terramycin or anti-Varroa Apistan strips in contact with the supers, only with the main hive body boxes.

By following this simple procedure, you should have healthy bees in your yard for as many years as you wish to keep them.

This page is authored and maintained by Rich Webb.You can send E-mail to me by following this link to the contact page. And feel free to contact me if you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions. I remain, however, perfectly capable of ignoring your useless opinion...

This document was last modified on Febuary 14, 2010, and has been viewed countless times.