Honey bees and beekeeping

American foulbrood alert


American foulbrood (AFB) disease has been found in the Northern Territory.

If you suspect your hives are infected, you must call Biosecurity on 1800 084 881 or email plantbiosecurity@nt.gov.au

Read more about AFB below.

American foulbrood (AFB) is an infectious disease of honey bee larvae and pupae. It is a notifiable disease and must be reported.

Heavy infections can affect most of the brood, severely weakening the colony and eventually killing it.

The disease can't be cured. It can only be managed by destroying infected colonies and hives or irradiating infected material.

Check for the disease

If you are a beekeeper, you should check your hives regularly for AFB. Uncontrolled infected hives act as a source of infection for other hives.

Signs include:

  • colonies become progressively weaker
  • infected larvae die in a coiled or twisted position, changing from a healthy pearly white colour to yellow, and then to brown
  • a characteristic pungent 'glue-pot' odour is noticeable, often when you remove the cover of the hive
  • the comb may appear a little greasy.

When inspecting the hive you should remove each brood frame and look for symptoms such as an irregular or scattered brood pattern with a mottled appearance.

Beekeepers should also look at unsealed brood because most infected larvae die before their cells are capped.

How the disease is diagnosed

AFB can be difficult to detect visually, especially in the early stages of infection.

The easiest and most effective way to test for AFB is through a laboratory analysis using a honey sample.

Laboratory tests can confirm the presence of AFB spores in honey with very high confidence, even if it's at very low levels.

Contact Plant Biosecurity for help with testing.

More information

For more information about AFB, go to the Plant Health Australia BeeAware website.

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Last updated: 12 November 2021

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