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Bee Health In The Limelight

A joint event to promote the health of bees and recognise signs of disease was organised by Leeds and Bradford Beekeepers with the assistance of Bee Inspectors from the National Bee Unit (NBU).

The event was held at the University of Bradford.

The day centred on the dreaded foulbrood, together with Nosema and the Asian Hornet. After an initial lecture outlining the causes and occurrence of foulbrood, the attendees split into smaller workshop groups. The workshops offered further instruction on different topics, namely the common signs of Nosema within a colony and the increasing frequency of Asian Hornet sightings and means to monitor and report such sightings. The final workshop required the groups to dress in their protective clothing to view hive frames with actual foulbrood infections under bio-secure conditions.

The frames of foulbrood had been supplied by the NBU. Biosecurity measures were necessary to ensure no transmission of infection from the frames to clothing, equipment or any other surfaces.

The diagnostic Lateral Flow Tests, (with which we’re now more familiar after the Covid pandemic), were demonstrated by the Bee Inspectors revealing that double blue-line that we hope we never see on tests from our own colonies. Having rarely seen any foulbrood, everyone was very keen to examine the frames very closely whilst observing all the precautionary measures to avoid any transmission. The best angle to view the frames, horizontal with the sun behind, was a useful tip to investigating possible foulbrood infection in our hive frames.

The antibiotic, oxytetracycline, used for treatment of European foulbrood in the past, was reported as no longer a treatment alternative, meaning that Shook Swarm or Destruction of the colony with temporary standstill are now the only controls.

It was interesting to hear that all positive sightings of the Asian Hornet in the UK were made by members of the public, not by beekeepers. The recent name change to ‘Yellow-Legged Asian Hornet’ was said to be a deliberate measure to encourage more public recognition. The broad, abdominal, yellow band is the next most distinguishing feature. Taking photos and reporting via the Asian Hornet Watch App was described as the most convenient system of reporting any possible sightings.

The best way of checking for Nosema was described as sampling of bees followed by microscopic examination of the gut for the Nosema spores. At a macro level, not involving equipment - an infected gut is seen as ‘white’ compared to a healthy ‘brown’ gut.

The coiled, polar filament used by the Nosema spores to inject nuclei into the epithelial cells of the bee gut is a fascinating mechanism, it helped to explain how the bees’ intestines are damaged as the spores compete with the bee for food.

All in all, it was an enlightening day, thanks particularly to the Bee Inspectors of the NBU giving up a day of their weekend to help local beekeepers be more aware of bee diseases, and more importantly, what to do should we find any problems in our hives.

Any beekeeper that hasn’t yet attended a Bee Health Day is missing out!!


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