American foulbrood (AFB) is a bacterial disease infecting brood of the honey bee (Apis mellifera). The disease is present in almost all countries where honey bees are found.
This serious brood disease is caused by a bacterium that produces very resistant, long-lived spores. A colony with AFB will usually be killed by the disease. However, this may take many months and in the meantime the bees, stores and hive parts can infect other colonies. Before a colony dies, it can have an infection of AFB that either cannot be seen or is easily missed, and the infection can be spread by interchanging equipment or bees.
Other colonies can also contract the disease by robbing. Beekeepers must be knowledgeable about the disease and constantly inspect for it.
American foulbrood was first recorded in New Zealand in 1877, 38 years after honey bees were introduced.
Within 10 years, the disease had spread to all parts of New Zealand and was being blamed for a 70% reduction in the nation's honey production.
New Zealand was the first county in the world to implement a nationwide programme for the control of AFB. The goal of the New Zealand AFB programme is to eliminate AFB from New Zealand.
For more information check out the American Foulbrood Management Agency website.
There is no legal or effective treatment for American Foulbrood Disease in New Zealand. Destruction is the only option as the disease is extremely infectious and the spores are very hard to kill.
All hives must be inspected annually by an Approved Beekeeper for the presence of AFB .
To become approved a beekeeper must pass a competency test in American foulbrood recognition and control and have a Disease Elimination Conformity Agreement (DECA) approved by AsureQuality Limited.
If a beekeeper is not Approved then he or she must engage the services of an Approved Beekeeper to inspect their hives and report on the inspection. More information about DECA's
New Zealand Law requires that colonies and hives with confirmed cases of AFB must be burnt,
unless the individual beekeeper is specifically allowed other actions under a Disease Elimination Conformity Agreement (DECA).
Full list of symptoms on the AFB website - afb.org.nz/symptoms-of-american-foulbrood
If you suspect you may have AFB please contact the National Pest Management Strategy or an AsureQuality Apiculture officer immediately.